The Federal Government Is Threatening Fremantle Over Its Australia Day Ceremony Date Change

This is why we can't have nice things.

police shooting indigenous teenager northern territory, Zachary Rolfe

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The Federal Government has threatened to revoke the City of Fremantle’s authority to hold citizenship ceremonies, after local councilors voted to move the date of the city’s Australia Day celebrations.

The City of Fremantle announced last week that it would conduct citizenship ceremonies on January 28, as part of the inaugural One Day in Fremantle festival that is being described as “a culturally-inclusive alternative to traditional Australia Day celebrations.”

The decision to change the date was praised by many Indigenous Australians, but sparked a backlash amongst conservatives who accused Fremantle Council of playing politics with the national holiday.

Yesterday, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke wrote a letter to Fremantle councilors at the behest of West Australian MP Ben Morton, in which he urged them to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day or face the consequences

“If the council are unable to reconcile their political views with their civic duty, I will consider revoking authorisation from those persons in the City of Fremantle who can currently receive a pledge of commitment at citizenship ceremonies,” Hawke said in a statement. “Fremantle Council has conducted Australian Citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day for the last five years, and the Government would strongly encourage this important tradition to continue.”

In a post on Facebook, Morton described the date change as “politically correct” and “backwards looking”, and declared that it “actually divides Australians and takes us further away from reconciliation.”

Despite the opposition, Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettit seemed determined to stick to his guns. “I’m not sure on what basis we would [reconsider] because we’ve been liaising with the Department of Immigration as far back as October, and we’ve been advised that there is no requirement to provide citizenship ceremonies on the 26th of January,” he told the ABC. “We actually hold citizenship ceremonies on a range of dates throughout the year.”

“I understand there may be some politics for them around this. We are actually really trying to keep the politics out of it and have a really great inclusive day.”

Feature image via Wikimedia