Illawarra mayors have weighed in on the federal government’s plan to force councils to hold a citizenship ceremony on January 26.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery and Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said whilst January 26 was recognised as Australia’s national day then they would hold citizenship ceremonies during council-run events.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison plans to force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day and another on September 17, Australian Citizenship Day, from 2020.
A strict dress code which excludes board shorts and thongs will be introduced during ceremonies.
Councils are under no obligation to hold ceremonies on any set days.
Cr Saliba did not agree with “forcing” people to wear certain and did not think residents would feel patriotic if the Prime Minister started laying down laws about the national day.
“Council’s shouldn’t be forced to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia day,” she said. “Everyone should be able to celebrate the day as they see fit.
“People like to wear big hats, sunglasses and Australian shirts on the day. How we dress is up to the individual not the government.”
Cr Bradbery said about 100 people would become citizens of Wollongong on January 26 as opposed to 40 each month.
“Some people come in to the ceremony after work wearing hi-vis and some young ladies wear quite revealing outfits,” he said.
“I only don’t agree with a woman, from an Arabic background, wearing a full face covering during the ceremony because I can’t see her lips moving when they say the oath.
“I am not sure how the dress code would be administered.”
The council holds citizenship ceremonies every month for the 500 people a year who became Australia citizens in the city.
Cr Saliba said she had “mixed feelings” about holding citizenship ceremonies during the council’s event.
“The ceremonies are important to those people and their families who are becoming Australian citizens,” she said. “But they are not important to other people.”
However, she said the council had no intention of changing its Australia Day event format because it was a popular event with 10,000 people attending each year.
Shellharbour City Council conducts four citizenship ceremonies throughout the year.
The mayors said it was important to acknowledge that some members of the community saw Australia as a Invasion Day and reminded people to think about the country’s history as well as recognise the achievements of the nation on the day.
The mayors reminded residents it was the federal government’s, not councils’, decision to either keep or change the date of Australia’s national day.
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