Community divided over changing the date of January 26

Changing the date: Bindjareb Noongar George Walley and Bunbury Mayor Jaysen Miguel weighed in on the conversation. Picture: supplied
Changing the date: Bindjareb Noongar George Walley and Bunbury Mayor Jaysen Miguel weighed in on the conversation. Picture: supplied

We continue to listen and be open to opportunities to better acknowledge and celebrate our Aboriginal culture..."

Mayor Jaysen Miguel

It wasn't until 1994 that January 26 was established as the date to celebrate Australia, but the new tradition falls on what has long been marked as a day of mourning for many First Nations people.

George Walley is a Bindjareb Noongar community leader who runs cultural tours to help people connect with Aboriginal culture and history.

He said that although lots of good work had been done by local governments and organisations working together with First Nations people, January 26 was a day for remembering, not celebrating.

"That was the invasion of the British empire into the different nations here of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people," Mr Walley said.

"That day changed our society into something where we experienced the generations of dispossession, the oppression, it just changed everything."

Following the City of Bunbury's Skyfest celebrations on January 26, The Mail reached out to Bunbury Mayor, Jaysen Miguel, to ask what the city's thoughts were on changing the date.

Cr Miguel said the city acknowledged the "differing opinions" among the entire community on Australia Day.

"...and that day causes pain and mourning to many from our Aboriginal community," Cr Miguel said.

"This year, we asked our community to reflect, respect and celebrate on Australia Day, in line with events held across the country."

Despite a range of differing opinions on what date Australia Day should be celebrated on, Cr Miguel added that there was currently "no official request being considered" by the City of Bunbury to change the date of celebrations.

"But, we continue to listen, learn and be open to opportunities and initiatives to better acknowledge and celebrate our Aboriginal culture and history.

"The city is committed to not only acknowledging our Aboriginal culture and Wardandi Country, but strengthening the relationships we already have with our Aboriginal community."

The date of Australia Day comes under the decision of the federal government, but several local councils in the eastern states, and Fremantle in WA, have changed the date of their local Australia Day celebrations.