Councils cancel Australia Day events amid Covid-19 concerns

Several councils in NSW and WA have cancelled their Australia Day events, blaming Covid-19 restrictions and ongoing health concerns.

Canterbury Bankstown, Liverpool, North Sydney, Inner West, and the Hills Councils in NSW have all cancelled events – as have the Perth metropolitan councils of Armadale and Bassendean.

It is believed other councils are reconsidering Australia Day celebrations due to uncertainty about health and social distancing requirements in January.

The City of Canterbury Bankstown has said it will not hold Australia Day events, including pool parties and a concert, after a council decision that they were not essential.

A council spokeswoman said there were ‘‘significant risks’’ in holding large-scale events due to possible changes to pandemic restrictions or an increase in Covid-19 infections.

Canterbury Bankstown’s Australia Day awards and citizenship event will also be ‘‘scaled back to a seated event with tight Covid controls and no catering’’.

Liverpool City Council cancelled its outdoor 2021 Australia Day celebration because of uncertainty around the extent of public health restrictions in January.

Acting chief executive Eddie Jackson said: ‘‘We will host a virtual invitation-only Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremony and our events team is working on plans to host a possible digital version of our much-loved Australia Day celebration’.

The Inner West Council dumped January 26 celebrations last year in favour of an event not on Australia Day, with Mayor Darcy Byrne saying Australia Day was to be commemorated not celebrated.

Earlier this year, the National Australia Day Council offered $8 million in grants across two packages to assist the local government sector to deliver Australia Day 2021 activities.

The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ben Morton, has urged local governments and event organisers to hold their Australia Day events in a Covid-safe way, ‘‘rather than rushing to cancel them’’.

He said the day was an opportunity to reflect on ‘‘our shared history and 60,000 years plus journey as a nation, its highs and its lows’’.