Council to consider January 26 talks

City of Greater Geelong Acting CEO Robyn Stevens. (Ivan Kemp)

City of Greater Geelong councillors are considering a move to formally initiate a discussion about January 26.

Council said it wants to understand, respect and acknowledge the experiences of First Nations people and the wider community.

The Australian government has gazetted 26 January as national holiday since 1994, and the community engagement by the City of Greater Geelong council does not propose to change the date.

The Kilangitj Aboriginal Advisory Committee provides advice to council on First Nations matters and has requested that council consider engaging with First Nations People and the broader community about 26 January.

City of Greater Geelong Acting CEO Robyn Stevens acknowledged that 26 January is a painful day for many First Nations people and there is growing interest and support from the Greater Geelong community for a deeper conversation about how the day is marked.

“Our understanding, as well as that of the community, regarding Australia Day continues to evolve which is why it is important to have this conversation,” Ms Stevens said.

“This is an opportunity to listen, have respectful conversations, build trust and understanding and promote reconciliation across the Greater Geelong community.”

Recommendations from the engagement would be presented back to council and the community to guide the City’s future approach to activities and commemorations held on 26 January.

Greater Geelong has the largest First Nations community of the 79 local governments in Victoria.

The Kilangitj Aboriginal Advisory Committee has recommended engagement for at least six months to allow for mature and deliberative discussions on this complex and emotive topic.

The conversation would begin with face-to-face and online forums with First Nations People, council said.

Engagement with the broader community is proposed to begin later this year and would include an online survey, the opportunity to provide a written submission, feedback via social media and interactive community forums.

“The engagement would seek to understand the diversity of views on Australia’s national day. Australia Day means different things to different people and no doubt there would be a mix of views in our community,” Ms Stevens said.