The timing of MidCoast Council's decision to turn over the organisation of an Australia Day function in Taree to the community is at best, questionable.
There will be a celebration in Taree on January 26, 2020, however, the details on the venue and if there will be community awards have yet to be determined. When Australia Day functions became fashionable after the 1988 Bicentenary the celebration in Taree was organised by the then Greater Taree City Council. Other towns in the GTCC area including, Wingham, Old Bar, Harrington and Lansdowne, also held functions run by community groups, usually service clubs. MidCoast Council has conducted the Taree and Forster-Tuncurry Australia Day celebrations since the council amalgamation.
However, a front page report in the Manning River Times on October 16 revealed that MidCoast Council's 2020 official Australia Day ceremony would be held as part of the Saltwater Freshwater Festival at Forster. This in itself is a curious decision, given the Saltwater Freshwater Festival is a celebration of indigenous culture and many indigenous Australians understandably have major concerns about Australia Day. Council assured it would support any community group willing to organise a ceremony in Taree.
So council threw it back on the community, mere months before Australia Day. There was no indication at last January's ceremony held at Club Taree that council wouldn't be involved in planning the 2020 event. Council would argue that the venue for next January's Saltwater Freshwater Festival hadn't been announced then. This didn't happen until October 9.
Three Taree-based Rotary clubs, Quota and Taree Lions Club have nominated to take on next January's Taree event. However, the clubs are now heavily involved with assisting bushfire victims, cutting into the time required to organise Taree's Australia Day. And the reality is, time is not on their side. The group is still awaiting word as to what, if any, input MidCoast Council will have on the day.
Given the late notice it would have made more sense for MidCoast Council to again organise the Taree event in 2020 and make preparations to hand the 2021 ceremony to a community organisation. Sense and MidCoast Council don't always seem to go hand-in-hand
Mick McDonald, senior journalist