Rethinking Australia Day in Freo.

Just before Australia Day in 2016 I watched Stan Grant’s powerful speech (and now famous) speech on racism and Australia

If you have not seen it then I highly recommend taking the time:


This speech challenged my thinking as to how we celebrate Australia Day and the kinds of events we have on this day in Fremantle. Australia Day is not a one dimensional day of universal celebration of this free, prosperous and peaceful place in which we are so fortunate to live. It is far more complex than that. For many aboriginal people it is a day of sadness, a day in which marks when their dispossession began with British settlement almost 220 years ago.

In my Australia Day speech a few days later I departed from the speech notes I was given to highlight this tension. Interestingly the Australia Day Ambassador to Fremantle Krista McMeeken an aboriginal woman from the Esperance region highlighted similar themes in her talk. It felt like there was a shift emerging in how we understood Australia Day.

After the speeches and citizenship ceremony I had just finished chatting about this challenge with Wadjuk Noongar elder Prof Len Collard when a young aboriginal man who was about to play with his band on stage came over and simply said along the lines of  “Thank you for raising this issue. It is really important for us”.

For me was the start of the conversation about rethinking how we mark Australia Day in Fremantle. As it happened others were having a similar conversation around the same time. The time was right for having a fresh think on how Freo manrks Australia Day. It would be fair to say I am not sure on the best way forward but as the Sunday Times and PerthNow have said it will come to the Fremantle Council  this Wednesday for debate.

It is a challenging issue and there will be lots of views but this is definitely a discussion worth having and there is no better place than Freo to kick this discussion off.


About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

14 Responses to Rethinking Australia Day in Freo.

  1. There’s no way you’re going to cancel the fireworks.

    • Do you say that because you like them? I’d be interested in why

      • Tommo says:

        It doesn’t even matter why, the guy below is fairly spot on though.
        I would wager $100 they don’t get cancelled.

      • Supporter says:

        Whomever placed bets that the cancellation would not happen have lost their bet.

        Please donate the money to

        Thank you
        A supporter

      • Funny how all you people supporting the ” Invasion against indigenous Australians” all originated from Migrant families. Does this not make you part of the ‘ Invasion ” Do you not want to hang your head in shame, go back to where you originated? Or just carry on with your well paid position and say’ That was our Ancestors, we can’t be held responsible for their actions ” Answer this one if you’re game, Mr Mayor.

      • Dennis
        My ancestors came in 1829 and over the past 7 generations i have no doubt mistakes were made despite most of them been good people. I think we acknowledge our forebears achievements and still acknowledge that some of what they did was not right. This is part of a healing process and reconciliation and I am happy to take responsibility for what we can change and improve now.
        cheers, Brad

  2. If the majority want fireworks then so be it,,you cant bow down to every minority who may object for what ever reason may be popular that week. The past is the past and we should ALL move on and celebrate this great nation together.

  3. Suz says:

    I agree something more culturally appropriate would be better, good on you Freo Council.

  4. This is a fantastic suggestion and you’ve got my encouragement!

  5. Dan Collier says:

    What a good idea, funny how some crackers don’t think its a good idea…..its pretty obviously offensive. Freo can drag the rest of OZ kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Loose that racist tag so frequently associated with this great nation.

  6. This is a genuine step forward for a reimagining of what Australia Day means and how it impacts upon the entire community. I applaud your willingness to explore other, more inclusive options. I wish the community I live in would ever be so open to change.

  7. Pingback: Fremantle Considers Cancelling Australia Day Fireworks! – Clinton's Walk For Justice

  8. JD says:

    Just read about this on the New Matilda website which was a great article, and then unfortunately on the front of the Australian newspaper which was a very poor piece of writing. I think it’s a wonderful move by Freo, and incredibly progressive. I’m hoping other cities and states follow your lead as quickly as possible.

  9. Graeme says:

    Having seen the success of the alternative event last saturday i think there is a good basis to open up an ongoing debate about moving the day to a less controversial day like march 1st. Thank you Freo council for promoting this event. This is a discussion we need to have as a nation.

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