This year will be the last Family and Community public holiday
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This year will be the last Family and Community public holiday

May 28 will be a public holiday in the ACT next year, if a bill to celebrate Reconciliation Day passes in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Indigenous affairs minister Rachel Stephen-Smith introduced legislation on Thursday to amend the Holidays Act to declare a public holiday on the first Monday on or after May 27 - the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum anniversary and the start of National Reconciliation Week.

Indigenous affiars minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

Indigenous affiars minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.Credit:Karleen Minney

If it passes, it means this year's Family and Community Day on September 25 will be the last.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the significance of the Family and Community Day, its origins as a union picnic day and the important role of the labour movement would "not be lost".

Other councils are planning to also vote on Australia Day celebrations after the City of Yarra decision.

Other councils are planning to also vote on Australia Day celebrations after the City of Yarra decision.Credit:Ben Plant

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"The government has committed to celebrating these important themes on Labour Day, giving the day and its message far greater emphasis than it has had in recent years," Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the referendum was a "defining event" in Australian history, where more than 90 per cent of Australians voted to recognise Aboriginal people in the census.

She said the government would work with Canberra's Indigenous community about the most appropriate way to celebrate the day.

The idea of introducing Reconciliation Day was last year championed by former Labor MLA and indigenous affairs minister Dr Chris Bourke.

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Chris Bourke.

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Chris Bourke.Credit:Jamila Toderas

Dr Bourke told Fairfax Media he believed the vast majority of people would support the new public holiday.

"In any community there's always a small number of people who hold extreme views, racist views, and that's unfortunately part of our life however I'm confident the vast majority of Canberrans will not only be supporting Reconciliation Day but celebrating the fact we've established this and using the day to reflect the reconciliation process and where we're going," Dr Bourke said.

"Reconciliation, I think is something we just need to keep working on. It's like a garden, to be continually worked and to bring together an idea of an Australia which is strengthened by this Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage to be the country we want it to be."

Greens crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur welcomed the new holiday but called on the ACT's parliament to endorse a campaign to change the date of Australia Day.

"In marking a day of colonisation, the Greens take the view that January 26 is an inappropriate date to celebrate our national day. I am pleased that the ACT is moving to instead celebrate our steps towards reconciliation," Ms Le Couteur said.

Earlier in the year, Ms Stephen-Smith said Australia should become a republic and celebrate that date as our national day instead.

"How about we pick a date that suits us all for a national celebration, move Australia Day to that date and then make sure we become a republic on that date?' Ms Stephen-Smith told the Assembly in February.

The bill will be debated when the Legislative Assembly next sits.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.