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Newcastle councillors keen to restore Australia Day citizenship ceremonies

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Two City of Newcastle (CN) councillors intend to reinstate citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day… on the proviso they’re re-elected in September.

Liberal duo Callum Pull and Jenny Barrie have indicated they’ll not only restore the traditional service on 26 January but amend council’s formal position to support the reintroduction of regulations, which mean organisations are unable to host them on a different day.

Their stance comes as two of the nation’s biggest sporting organisations, Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia, cop extensive criticism for trying to suppress any Australia Day acknowledgement in 2024.

CN will stage a citizenship ceremony at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday 24 January.

Cr Pull admitted the proposed changes were about protecting the rights of new Australians.

“I’ve had conversations with people who’ve been naturalised in Newcastle,” the Ward 4 councillor said.

“They all talked about just how important that day was, what it meant to them and how significant it was that they could choose our national day to be the date they join us as Australians.

“Every new citizen should have the right to pick when they want to take their oath… and become an Australian.

“Council offers multiple ceremonies throughout the year.

“So, it makes sense that at least one of those services should be on Australia Day.

“26 January is by far the most popular choice for new citizens.

“However, CN’s decision to cancel the Australia Day ceremony took away that option.

“I called out council’s action back then, saying it was wrong.

“They did It under the cover of Christmas in 2023 and tried to say there was some amount of feedback stating new citizens wanted to move to a more culturally-appropriate date.

“But, there was no consultation done across a broad section of the community.

“Whether you think Australia Day should be on 26 January or not, the fact is it’s our national day.

“It is incredibly important that we at least give them the opportunity to become citizens then.”

Cr Barrie reiterated the magnitude of making “new Aussies” feel welcome in our city.

“In the past, Australia Day has always had these ceremonies,” the Ward 2 councillor said.

“If a new citizen wants to be an Australian and feel like they belong in our country, then they should be able to choose Australia Day to be naturalised.”

The pair strongly believes the federal government needs to reinstate regulations that force councils to host the ceremony on Australia Day, too.

“Those laws protected the rights of new citizens against activist councils,” Cr Pull said.

“So, we will move a motion making it the official position of the City of Newcastle to support the reintroduction of those protocols.

“Council should show pride in our country and demonstrate that you can be a proud Australian no

matter who you are or where you come from.

“Instead, under Labor, CN has decided to engage in culture wars.

“In September, residents can choose to have another activist council or a responsible one, which responds to and enables the aspirations of our city.

“I am firmly on the side of those seeking a sensible organisation.

“A council’s desire to protest should not take away the right of new citizens to choose our national

day as the date they join us as Australians.”

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