A third council in the city of Melbourne has moved to cancel Australia Day celebrations, arguing the country’s national day is offensive for indigenous people.
Australia Day is celebrated Jan. 26 every year to mark the anniversary of Britain’s First Fleet’s arrival in 1788. The Moreland City Council in Melbourne voted Wednesday to remove all references of the date as Australia Day. One councilor called the ceremonies “grossly offensive” while another compared it to Germany celebrating its Nazi past.
“It would be like celebrating the Nazi holocaust,” Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton said during the meeting, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.
The government condemns the cancelation and it moved to ban citizenship ceremonies in the two other communities that passed similar bills last month. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has previously described the cancellations as “utterly out of step” with Australian values.
“The Turnbull government strongly condemns comparisons of Australia Day with the Nazi Holocaust as deeply offensive to all Australians,” Alex Hawke, the federal assistant immigration minister, said in a statement. “Already we have stripped councils of the right to administer citizenship where they have violated the Australian citizenship ceremonies code.”
The cancellations coincide with a string of attacks against monuments of James Cook, the first European to explore and chart Australia’s east coast. The Turnbull administration has asked the Heritage Council to include statues on the National Heritage List, which would penalize vandalizations with hefty fines and up to seven years in jail.
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