Citizenship ceremonies are important opportunities to formally welcome new citizens as full members of the Australian community.
These ceremonies are formal in nature and governed by the Australian Citizenship Ceremony Code https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/citizenship-subsite/files/australian-citizenship-ceremonies-code.pdf
The code specifically states that “citizenship ceremonies are non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular.”
The Code also identifies two significant dates for citizenship ceremonies: January 26 – Australia Day and September 17 – Australian Citizenship Day.
It is important to recognise that most councils already conduct citizenship ceremonies on both dates. While some councils have resolved not to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26, they advise they have done so after consultations with their community, as is required under the relevant state-based Act.
It is the respective state governments, not the federal government, which legislate and govern the local government sector in Australia.
Local government is an essential tier of government in Australia, and one which is closest to the people. Councils deliver many essential services, often on behalf of state and federal governments, including citizenship ceremonies. In the majority of cases, councils provide the logistical and financial support required to conduct these ceremonies. Councils may use money from the federal Financial Assistance Grants (FAG) to support their citizenship ceremonies. The funds are ‘untied’ and nonspecific.
The VLGA urges the Australian Government to engage with local councils prior to mandating all councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26. Not to do so undermines the relevant state-based Acts, the principles of effective local governance, and is potentially disrespectful to the traditional owners of the land and new Australians due to the sensitivities surrounding the significance of this date.
Rather than reconcile tension between the levels of government it heightens animosity and both the federal government and the local government sector should avoid using this date for political purposes.
Please attribute to VLGA Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Arndt
Media contact: Liddy 0403 542 411
The VLGA acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Victoria and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners, their elders past, present and future, and to their cultures.
The advice provided by the VLGA is intended to be guidance only. It is not a substitute for legal or formal advice from relevant regulatory bodies.
© Victorian Local Governance Association 2023