Australia’s federal government has ordered local governments to hold naturalization ceremonies for new citizens on Australia Day amid controversy over the holiday, which some claim is offensive to the nation’s indigenous people.
The government is proposing that all local-government bodies in Australia, typically referred to as councils, must hold induction ceremonies for new citizens on the Australia Day holiday on Jan. 26 and the Australian Citizenship Day holiday on Sept. 17 or have their authorization revoked, Australian Minister of Immigration David Coleman said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Australia Day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first British fleet at Sydney Cove, where the British flag was raised on the continent marking the start of colonization.
However, for some the date marks the start of the loss of Aboriginal cultural heritage and suffering under discriminatory policies.
The country’s 700,000 indigenous people track near the bottom of its 25 million citizens in almost every economic and social indicator.
Several local councils have stopped holding citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day because of concerns that the date is insulting to Aborigines.
At a news conference televised by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Coleman said that more than 100 of the country’s 537 councils do not hold citizenship ceremonies on the Australia Day holiday.
The proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code are planned for introduction by the first half of this year, the minister’s statement said.
However, Australian Local Government Association President David O’Loughlin said councils hold multiple citizenship ceremonies throughout the year and the majority of those who skip Australia Day do so for practical reasons.
“It’s a very expensive undertaking to do a public event on a public holiday,” he told reporters. “About two or three only moved the day for ideological reasons.”
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