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A group of children waving Australian flags.
Photograph: Adam Pretty | Courtesy of ABC

Melbourne council votes to consider nixing Australia Day celebrations

Lord mayor Sally Capp led the charge, with a majority of councillors supporting the move

Adena Maier
Written by
Adena Maier

On January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip's fleet landed at Warrane (Sydney Cove) and planted the Union flag. This act essentially opened the floodgates for British colonisers to invade and lay claim to the continent that more than 250 sovereign nations called home. First Nations peoples had no choice but to engage in conflict to defend their land, resulting in a massacre of anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 Aboriginal people. 

And how does Australia reckon with that bloody history? Well, there are records of January 26 celebrations dating back to 1808, but in 1994, it was officially declared Australia Day, a national public holiday for all states and territories that's often accompanied by fireworks, parades and ceremonies. That is, until now: after decades of protest led primarily by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Melburnians may finally be looking at a celebration-free January 26. 

Melbourne city council has voted to launch a review into Australia Day celebrations, with all but two councillors supporting the motion that was put forward by lord mayor Sally Capp. A review and debate are now set to take place on September 6, with a potential result being to move celebrations to another date or cancel them entirely. It will have no effect on the day's status as a national public holiday. 

"I recognise that for many people, celebrating Australia Day on the 26th of January is important – but there's a changing sentiment around celebrating what it means to be Australian on that day," said Capp in an interview with ABC Melbourne radio.

While a majority of councillors have expressed their support for the move, in the event that the review and debate result in keeping the celebrations, Capp confirmed that the city would be prepared to host its typical January 26 events.

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