COUNCILLORS are divided over the date for Bathurst’s upcoming citizenship ceremony, seemingly unable to agree on how it was decided.
The ceremony has traditionally been held on Australia Day itself, but this year it is slated for the day prior, making some councillors furious.
Although the date change was listed in the documents provided to councillors ahead of the October 17 Bathurst Regional Council meeting, deputy mayor Bobby Bourke felt some people were trying to sneak the date change through.
He rang his fellow councillors on Monday for their opinions and discovered that six of them, himself included, were against holding the ceremony on January 25.
“It is the mayor’s call that they either have it on the 25th or the 26th and I’ve tried to persuade him to change it, and he won’t,” Cr Bourke said, adding that he had also called the prime minister's office.
“I’m just sick and tired of people trying to change everything ... I think the majority of people in Bathurst want to celebrate on the 26th.”
He said council had to represent Bathurst and that mayor Graeme Hanger should change the date of the citizenship ceremony to reflect residents’ wishes.
“I’m disappointed in the mayor, very disappointed,” Cr Bourke said.
Cr Alex Christian said that there was a lot of confusion as he, a member of the Australia Day committee, also didn't realise that the date for the ceremony had been confirmed as January 25.
While he preferred the traditional date, Cr Christian said he didn’t think the mayor would change his mind.
“Ideally I think the ceremony should be on Australia Day; I think the new citizens would appreciate if their ceremony was on Australia Day and that their certificate said the 26th,” he said.
“But I think everyone should take a breath and remember that we are still celebrating Australia Day on Australia Day, with the pool and at Eglinton.”
The Australia Day committee is due to meet on Tuesday afternoon to finalise plans.
Both Cr Christian and Cr Ian North plan to raise the subject of the date then.
Cr North said he was “bitterly disappointed in the mayor” for seemingly making the decision about changing the date of the ceremony on his own.
From his recollection, himself and Cr Christian had asked for a family-friendly revamp of Australia Day and it was Cr Hanger who suggested an evening ceremony.
Cr North said that the idea was going to be looked into, but ultimately should have been decided by a separate vote from councillors, which never occurred.
He said there was time to change the date of the ceremony, but it was up to the mayor to do so.
“I think there is plenty of time and I think people would understand,” he said.
Mayor Graeme Hanger said that, despite the anger, the citizenship ceremony would be held on January 25.
“It’s not me who can change it. The committee made the decision in September and it was endorsed by councillors in October,” he said.
Further to this comment, a written statement was received from Cr Hanger that said “there were no objections to the event timetable at that meeting” in reference to councillors at the October 17 meeting.
“Council and the Australia Day working party continually review our Australia Day celebrations and this year has opted for two days of activities and celebrations,” he said.
“In previous years, Council has held its Citizenship Ceremony outdoors on Australia Day however with extreme heat each year, the Australia Day Committee decided to move to an evening indoor function.
“This will make the event more comfortable for guests, similar to the Federal Government’s Australian of the Year Ceremony – held each year the night before Australia Day.”