The Federal Government Has Banned Fremantle From Holding Citizenship Ceremonies On January 28

It was a nice idea while it lasted.

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The Federal Government has officially banned the City of Fremantle from holding citizenship ceremonies as part of its alternative Australia Day celebrations on January 28.

Fremantle Council announced in November that its national holiday festivities, which include pledges of citizenship, would be pushed back by two days out of respect for Indigenous Australians. But Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke has now confirmed that the government has made good on its threat to intervene. Speaking to ABC radio on Monday, Hawke said that hosting citizenship ceremonies on another date “would give an anti-Australia Day message.”

“Citizenship has got to be apolitical, non-commercial, bipartisan and secular,” said Hawke. “It’s really important – we’ve got hundreds of councils administering this around the country – that they don’t get the idea they can use citizenship as a political football.”

Hawke said that it would be alright for Fremantle to hold citizenship ceremonies on a date other than January 26, but that it couldn’t be described as an alternative to Australia Day.

“We’re trying to work this out. We’re being reasonable,’ he said. “We don’t want this to escalate into a major political situation.”

There is a bit of a problem with Hawke’s argument, however. Holding the national holiday on a date that thousands of your citizens view as a day of mourning  a day that marks the beginning of hundreds of years of dispossession, discrimination and death – means that it’s already a political situation, and has been for quite some time.

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt, who has been a proponent of the alternative Australian Day celebrations, told The West Australian that “we’re not trying to have a confrontation with the Government,” and said that holding citizenship ceremonies on another day would “probably be the best way forward for everybody.”

Feature image via Wikimedia