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Bondi Beach to hold Australia Day morning service: ‘It can be seen as a day of mourning’

A Sydney council has sparked controversy with its decision to celebrate Australia Day with an Anzac Day-style ‘dawn’ ceremony at Bondi Beach.

Hosted by Waverley Council, the service will acknowledge the resilience and survival of Indigenous people. It will include a Welcome to Country from a traditional custodian and a smoking ceremony.

Commemorated annually on 26 January, Australia Day marks the landing of the First Fleet in 1788, when the first governor of the British colony of New South Wales, Arthur Philip, raised the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.

But for many First Nations people, it is considered «Invasion Day» or «Day of Mourning» because it marks the beginning of the colonization of Australia.

Mayor Paula Masselos said: “The council understands that January 26 has multiple meanings and can be a difficult day for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Bondi will host a morning ‘reflection’ from 5.30am on Friday (pictured: Anzac Day dawn)

“It can be seen as a day of mourning but also a day of recognition for the continued resilience and survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions and cultures.

«It’s not only a time for reflection, but an opportunity to learn from our First Nations people, which will help Council celebrate January 26th in a more complete way.»

Waverley Council’s decision to hold a ‘dawn’ service on Bondi Beach for Australia Day appears to be similar to the traditional use of morning services usually associated with Anzac Day.

«Really divisive,» said one local, while another asked why the dawn ceremony was being held on Australia Day: «You guys sound a bit confused.»

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Others argued that it was a step in the right direction.

“Great way to start the 26th; pay respect and move on,” said one.

Another added: «Reflection is a beautiful thing.»

Waverley Council will continue to hold citizenship ceremonies for the community’s newest Australian citizens later in the day, unlike nearly 100 councils across the country that have abandoned the ritual on Australia Day. The move comes after a survey showed that fewer than one in five Australians want to change the date of Australia Day.

Almost two-thirds of Australians, 63 per cent, agree that Australia Day should remain on January 26, according to a poll by the Institute of Public Affairs.

Meanwhile, NSW Premier Chris Minns urged Aussies to celebrate Australia Day.

“This is a day we can all celebrate with your family and friends, recognize that we live in the greatest country on earth. I will certainly do it.’

Waverley Council has acknowledged that January 26 is a difficult day for many Indigenous Australians. Pictured is last year’s Invasion Day rally

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