Councillor bid to change plans for Australia Day fails

A bid to shift Hawkesbury Council’s Australia Day citizenship and awards ceremonies back to January 26 has failed.

Councillor Nathan Zamprogno moved a notice of motion at the November 27 council meeting that council “hold its award ceremonies and citizenship ceremony on Australia Day itself at any convenient venue … mindful of the weather and OH and S issues for staff and attendees”.

Awards ceremony: 2018 Citizen of the Year Peter Webb received his accolade on January 26. Next year's recipients will receive theirs on the evening of January 25. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Awards ceremony: 2018 Citizen of the Year Peter Webb received his accolade on January 26. Next year's recipients will receive theirs on the evening of January 25. Picture: Geoff Jones.

The move followed council’s decision to hold the Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremony on the evening of January 25 with a separate family fun event to be held on Australia Day itself, after this year’s celebrations saw temperatures soar to 43 degrees and council staff working from 5am to 11pm.

Local residents Andrew Kennedy and Mark Jackson spoke in favour of the motion, Mr Kennedy saying Australia Day was “the most important day in our national calendar”.

“This community is a deeply patriotic one, and it has the clear expectation that citizenship and award ceremonies should be held on Australia day,” he told the meeting.

However, speaker Peter Nicholson labelled the item “the Ray Hadley motion” in reference to the popular radio host’s on-air comments berating the council for its decision.

“The council staff requested that they hold the citizenship ceremony the night before when it wasn’t 40-odd degrees, they didn’t have to start setting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and work through until after midnight, just to please this perception that it’s traditional,” he said.

Cr Zamprogno accepted the original decision was based on staff advice for operational reasons, but believed the community expected Australia Day events to be held on January 26.

“I do say that when the resolution of council was reported in the media, first in the Gazette and then more widely, there was a distinct note from the community that their expectation was that these things should be held on Australia Day,” he said.

“These ceremonies that we hold have a particular symbolic significance and regardless of the reason that was offered, there was something that was missing from our deliberation and … the chamber got it wrong.

“The reasons that were offered … do not preclude us from having the citizenship and award ceremonies on Australia Day at a suitable indoor venue.”

Cr Zamprogno and Cr Patrick Conolly were the only councillors to support the notice of motion, and it was subsequently lost. 

Cr Sarah Richards – who declared a less than significant non-pecuniary conflict of interest in the matter due to her Liberal preselection process and left the chamber – put forward a second similar notice of motion acknowledging the Australian Citizenship and Ceremonies Code, and maintaining council’s commitment to continue celebrating Australia Day on January 26.

However, in changes successfully moved by Cr Danielle Wheeler, council reaffirmed its position to hold the citizenship and awards ceremonies on January 25, with its family event at Governor Phillip Park Park on January 26 each year.