City scraps offensive display
Ballarat is ditching Australia Day fireworks in favour of a Survival Day dawn ceremony.
Seven out of nine Ballarat councillors have voted in favour of a recommendation from the city's Koorie Engagement Action Group, which called on it to stop holding a fireworks display at Lake Wendouree on January 26.
The fireworks display will instead be held either on New Year's Eve from 2021 or the city's annual Begonia Festival.
Ballarat’s Australia Day activities will now include a Survival Day dawn ceremony, citizenship ceremonies, and other reconciliation-focused community events.
Ballarat Koorie Engagement Action Group's chairman Jon Kanoa said it is a welcome change.
“The way we see January 26, while some think it's a day of celebration, for a lot of Aboriginal Australians it's a day of mourning,” he told the ABC.
“The decision to hold off on the fireworks is something that we've been discussing over a period of time.
“To take away that significance of a celebration for that specific date is something we've been pushing and from our perspective it's a really positive move.”
Mayor Daniel Moloney says the decision reflects changing attitudes in the community.
“We'll still continue the citizenship ceremonies and there will be a range of other probably smaller events arranged on January 26, so there's still the opportunity for people to recognise the day,” he said.
“There's a combination of coronavirus forcing our hand a little bit, where we can't have mass gatherings, and to cut to the chase we're keen for a more respectful event that acknowledges much of the hurt and sorrow experienced by a big part of our population and also the changing sentiments around January 26.”
Ballarat held its first Survival Day ceremony at Lake Wendouree at dawn last January 26, which saw more than 1,000 attendees.
Cr Moloney says it is already a popular event.
“People have got a greater understanding of the feelings around January 26 and what it means for our Aboriginal population,” he said.
“This is not necessarily about, as some people will accuse us of, playing to a small part of the community.
“It's actually a sentiment that is increasingly shared by more and more people.
“Seeing the huge turnout for the first Survival Day service earlier this year was incredible.”
The two dissenting councillors have called for further community consultation about changes.