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Councillors stunned after massive Australia Day change is made without their knowledge: ‘It’s sad it’s come to this’


A council has controversially removed the words ‘Australia Day‘ from some January 26 events and changed the date of their annual citizen merit awards. 

Cairns Regional Council has changed the title of their ‘Australia Day Awards’ to the ‘Citizen of the Year’ ceremony which will instead be held on February 1. 

Councillors Max O’Halloran and Cathy Zeiger said councillors were not involved in the decision.

‘It’s sad to see it’s come to this. We seem to be losing this tradition everywhere – it’s being thrown out the window,’ Mr O’Halloran told The Cairns Post

Ms Zeiger said she thought it was ‘poor form’ and that ‘councillors being the last to find out things seems to be the case quite often recently’.

Cairns Regional Councillor Max O'Halloran (second from left) said councillors were taken by surprise over the decision to wind back Australia Day events

Cairns Regional Councillor Max O’Halloran (second from left) said councillors were taken by surprise over the decision to wind back Australia Day events

On Tuesday, Cairns Regional Council re-added the word Australia Day to some promotional posts advertising activities for January 26 following media enquiries.

Council CEO Mica Martin said council’s events for the day were focused on free family fun and the term Australia Day was still allowed to be used.

‘The promotion of Australia Day events and the format of the Citizen of the Year Awards was done in close consultation with mayor Bob Manning last year. The approach was very successful,’ Ms Martin said.

It is understood a citizenship ceremony will still be held on Australia Day at Council’s civic building with more than 70 people expected to attend.

Ms Martin added the decision to move the Citizen of the Year Awards to another date was partly due to their achievements not being overshadowed by debate surrounding Australia Day.

Some of the 2023 Cairns Citizen of the Year winners with mayor Bob Manning (centre)

Some of the 2023 Cairns Citizen of the Year winners with mayor Bob Manning (centre) 

January 26 commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Australia and raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.

However, in recent years Invasion Day rallies attended by thousands have garnered more attention on January 26 as they protest the plight of First Nations Australians.

Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell explains on the Invasion Day website: ‘The British were armed to the teeth from the moment they stepped foot on our country… It’s not a date that is particularly pleasing for Aborigines.’



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