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Adelaide the latest front in "change the date" debate

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Adelaide is set to become the latest front in the “change the date” controversy over Australia Day. The city council will next week debate its position on moving the date from January 26 – which Indigenous activists argue constitutes “invasion day”.

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InDaily understands South Ward councillor Alex Antic has submitted a motion for next Tuesday’s meeting, urging the council to publicly advocate a position on the issue.

Hundreds of Aboriginal activists protested “invasion day” earlier this year by blocking the Australia Day cultural parade through Adelaide.

January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, and the flag of Great Britain being raised at Sydney Cove in 1788.

South Ward councillor Priscilla Corbell told InDaily this morning she would support an investigation into alternative dates for Australia Day.

“I would be supportive of an investigation … of other dates that wouldn’t be so offensive to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians,” she said.

“There’s nothing to stop us from advocating a particular position on behalf of our community to the federal government.”

But area councillor Anne Moran argued the date of Australia Day should not be offensive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and claimed Britain’s settlement of Australia was a “gentle colonisation”.

“There was never any suggestion it was celebrating anything bad to the Aboriginal race,” she told InDaily this morning.

“It being ‘invasion day’ is a recent thing.

“It’s like saying Christmas is offensive to the Muslims.”

She also claimed: “I don’t think it was an invasion. It wasn’t like the troops breaching the Dardanelles.

“In the history of the world, it was a gentle colonisation.”

North Ward councillor Phil Martin cautioned that was not the Adelaide City Council’s place to advocate on the issue.

“These are matters for the Federal Government, not for local government,” he said.

“Whatever decision the Federal Government (…makes) is the one that the council should follow.”

He added that he believed it “inevitable” that the date will eventually be changed, but would not be drawn on whether he thought that desirable.

Early this year, the Federal Government threatened the Fremantle Council with removing its powers to conduct citizenship ceremonies if it went ahead with a plan to hold Australia Day celebrations on January 28.

The council will plunge into the debate a week after ABC youth radio station Triple J launched an online poll of listeners, asking whether the popular Hottest 100 music countdown should be moved from January 26 to a different date.

Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad said he may have to absent himself from next week’s debate because of his role as chairperson of the Australia Day Council (ADC) of South Australia.

But in that capacity, he said the ADC was planning to host a “TEDx-style” debate on the subject later this year.

“The Australia Day council of South Australia is really focused on celebrating the day, not the date,” he said.

“The role of the Australia Day Council is to facilitate that debate safely.

“We don’t have a formal position (for or against changing the date).”

Antic did not respond to enquiries from InDaily this morning. The text of his motion is due to be made public later this afternoon.

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