Maribyrnong residents will be asked for their views on January 26, a date “recognised as both Australia Day and Invasion Day”.
Cr Jorge Jorquera moved a notice of motion at last week’s council meeting “that council acknowledges January 26, the day Captain Arthur Phillip first raised the Union Jack flag in Sydney Cove as Invasion Day, a symbol of the forceful dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and a recurring reminder of over 200 years’ injustice”.
His motion failed to gain majority support.
Mayor Michael Clarke expressed concerns that elders from Maribyrnong’s three main Indigenous language groups had not been consulted.
“You’ve not consulted with the elders of either the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung, the Bunurong or the Boon Wurrung tribes of the Kulin nation,” Cr Clarke said.
“Until we actually have a process where the consultation, where the understanding of what the local Aboriginal community thinks on this matter, we’re doing nothing more than participating in paternalism.”
Cr Jorquera, who came to Australia as a refugee fleeing Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship, said his motion was “motivated by the leadership that’s been taken by Senator Lidia Thorpe and numerous other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activists, spokespeople and elders throughout the country”.
He said the second English word he learned was a racial slur after he was mistaken for an Aboriginal and his best friend in the schoolyard became an Aboriginal kid called, Sam.
“From that day, to answer Michael’s question, I’ve been in consultation with the Aboriginal community and wherever possible supporting their struggle,” he said, becoming visibly emotional.
Cr Sarah Carter expressed concern that some councils had been stripped of the ability to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 “because they have declared that they won’t have any events on January 26”.
She said the council had taken steps by moving the Civic Awards ceremony and the Stony Creek Festival.
Cr Cuc Lam echoed this fear.
“I want to be certain that council do not jeopardise its ability to conduct the citizenship ceremony, which is very close to every migrant’s heart, including me,” she said.
Chief executive Stephen Wall said the federal government’s Australian citizenship ceremony code stipulated that councils were required to hold a citizenship ceremony on January 26.
“I just raise that as an issue when councillors are having this debate,” he said.
Cr Clarke foreshadowed an alternative motion that council “engages in a broad ranging and deliberative consultation process with the First Nations and the wider established and newly arrived people of Maribyrnong”.
“The intent of this clear community engagement is to assist the sitting councillors in generating a clear direction on how the Maribyrnong City Council should respond to 26 January, a day recognised as both Australia Day and Invasion Day,” the motion reads.
It was supported unanimously.
The issue will be debated at the next council meeting on March 16.