A Sydney council has sparked controversy with its decision to mark Australia Day with an Anzac Day-style ‘dawn reflection’ ceremony at Bondi Beach.
The service, hosted by Waverley Council, will acknowledge the resilience and survival of Aboriginal people. It will include a Welcome to Country from a traditional custodian and a smoking ceremony.
Australia Day, observed each year on January 26, marks the landing of the First Fleet in 1788 when the first governor of the British colony of New South Wales, Arthur Philip, hoisted the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.
But for many First Nations people, it is regarded as ‘Invasion Day’ or the ‘Day of Mourning’ because it marks the beginning of Australia’s colonisation.
Mayor Paula Masselos said: ‘Council understands that January 26 has multiple meanings and it can be a difficult day for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Bondi will host a dawn ‘reflection’ from 5.30am Friday (Pictured: An Anzac Day dawn service)
‘It can be considered a day of mourning, but also a day to acknowledge the ongoing resilience and survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions and cultures.
‘It is not only a time to reflect, but also an opportunity to learn from our First Nations people, which will help Council mark January 26 in a more complete way.’
The decision by Waverley Council to hold a ‘dawn reflection’ service at Bondi Beach for Australia Day appears similar to the traditional use of dawn services, which are usually associated with Anzac Day.
‘Truly divisive,’ one local said, while another questioned why a dawn ceremony was being held on Australia Day: ‘You guys [coincil] sound a little confused.’
Others said it was a move in the right direction.
‘A great way to start the 26th; paying respect then moving forward,’ one said.
A second added: ‘Reflection is a beautiful thing.’
Waverley Council will continue to host citizenship ceremonies for the community’s newest Australian citizens later in the day, unlike almost 100 councils nationwide, which have abandoned the ritual on Australia Day. The move comes after a poll revealed less than one in five Australians want to change the date of Australia Day.
Nearly two-thirds of Australians, 63 per cent, agree the date of Australia Day should stay as January 26, according to the Institute of Public Affairs poll.
Meanwhile, NSW Premier Chris Minns has urged Aussies to celebrate Australia Day.
‘This is a day for us all to celebrate with your family and friends, recognise that we live in the greatest country on Earth. I definitely will be doing that.’
Waverley Council has acknowledged January 26 is a difficult day for many Indigenous Australians. Pictured is an Invasion Day rally last year