Australia Day to dawn with a Morning of Mourning

Australia Day in Port Phillip will dawn with a “Morning of Mourning and Remembrance” following a decision at last night’s Port Phillip Council Meeting to support the inclusive ceremony.

While the proposal was discussed in October, a final decision was postponed until Councillors could consider a report containing details including costs and potential locations.

Believed to be the first council in Australia to support an Australia Day event of this kind, Port Phillip will work closely with the Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council (BLSC) as they organise their event.

Councillor Dick Gross said while details are being finalised, it is likely a one hour outdoor ceremony featuring symbolic sounds, gestures and dance will be held at 6 am near the Bay in 2020 to incorporate the rising of the sun. Alfred Square, St Kilda, is the preferred location. An Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony will still be held later that day at the St Kilda Town Hall.

Cr Gross, who brought the proposal to Council, said the additional ceremony would enrich Australia Day for Port Phillip by promoting unity and respect at an event open to all.

“This idea is not an attack on Australia Day. We love Australia Day and celebrate our post-colonial nationhood with pride, passion and respect,” he said.

“All of the great ceremonial occasions however, like the faces of a diamond, have several different lenses – some happy, some less so. Both ANZAC Day and Easter exemplify how a day can have both mournful and uplifting elements. We hope that to bring out all aspects of the Day over the morning and afternoon.”

Mayor Bernadene Voss said while the Citizenship Ceremony is a joyful event, Council believed it was also important to acknowledge the impact of the arrival of Europeans on the Boonwurrung and First Nation People.

“As with the ANZAC Dawn Service, a solemn ceremony provides an opportunity to reflect on the past — in this case, the injustices experienced by the Traditional Owners,” Cr Voss said.

Boonwurrung Elder Parbin-ata Carolyn Briggs AM told the meeting that the Morning of Mourning and

Remembrance would recognise the efforts of Ancestors and Elders to preserve their ancient cultural heritage after European colonisation.

“The Boonwurrung want to partner with Council so we can all move forward as a community,” Parbin-ata Briggs said. “The past will never be resolved unless we stand together. This symbolic event also allows us to share and celebrate our rich, diverse culture.”


Council will contribute up to $20,000 for the event, subject to finalising arrangements with the BLSC. The Australia Day Council has committed $4000-$5000 towards the ceremony, expected to cost about $24,000.

The BLSC, which is a not-for-profit organisation, will contribute in kind support for the planning, design and delivery.

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