COUNCILLOR Peter Epov said he is 'disappointed and incensed' at MidCoast Council's decision to hold the citizenship ceremony on Monday (January 29) and not on Australia Day.
Cr Epov claims the decision was made without consultation with councillors.
In a statement to the Times, Cr Epov said:
"I am most disappointed and incensed at the recent unilateral decision which I understand was made by the mayor and general manager not to hold a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.
"The decision was made without any consultation with no formal decision by the elected councillors. I am aware of at least four councillors who were not consulted. In this day of modern communications and technology, councillors should have been consulted.
Smacks of politics
"This is most disappointing and unfortunately smacks of politics, or is it that someone just didn't wish to work on a Friday?
"I recall during a councillor workshop in December 2023 there was confirmation and a universal understanding that there would be a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day. That discussion even included the number of guests that each recipient would be permitted to invite to attend the ceremony.
"As an elected councillor who was very strongly supported at the last election with over 11,000 votes, it is most unsatisfactory that I was not consulted regarding such an important decision.
"Australia Day is an occasion to celebrate and to rejoice at the extraordinary opportunity of living in this amazing country. To recognise and celebrate people who have made remarkable contributions to our communities. And also to welcome people who have made the significant decision to become an Australian citizen, which is not taken lightly, and who want to be a permanent part of our community.
"As an independent councillor I am very sympathetic to Indigenous issues. Prior to the vote on the Voice Referendum and specifically during the council debate on the subject, I was one of the very few councillors who spoke strongly in favour of the Voice and I moved a motion to support the Voice at the council meeting.
"No matter what your ancestry, heritage or religion is, nor when you arrived on this continent, we all here now, and we are all privileged to have the opportunity to live in this free, diverse and multicultural place; arguably the best country in the world.
"We should all try to be respectful of each other and live in peace and harmony.
"This day should not be transformed into negativity and base politics, as this does not help anyone to advance their cause.
"Council has published on its website: "Every year, we welcome a number of MidCoast residents as new Australian citizens. Council runs citizenship ceremonies on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs. We generally hold five ceremonies each year - Australia Day, Harmony Week in March, Refugee Week in June, Australian Citizenship Day in September and often a ceremony in December if numbers permit. Exact dates and times of the ceremonies will be communicated to the invitees approximately four to six weeks ahead of the ceremony."
"I have great sympathy for the 'candidates for citizenship'. It must be most disconcerting to those persons who have been successful in attaining the right to become an Australian citizen and who have been waiting for some time for that privilege to be confirmed, then to be advised at very short notice, that their unique and special day has been postponed.
"These people were to receive their citizenship on Australia Day, a public holiday, now they will be forced to re-schedule their lives, potentially take a day off work, to attend the ceremony and receive their citizenship. Not a great way to welcome people.
"Australia Day should not be undermined and the community needs and deserves to receive a very clear honest explanation as to when and why this decision was made without reference to the elected council.
"I call for reason and sanity to prevail from all sections of the community and particularly council's leadership.''