Ballarat City Council continues to strike balance for evolving Australia Day views

January 12, 2023 8:10 am in by
Supplied: Ballarat City Council

Preparations are in full swing for Ballarat’s annual Fireworks Spectacular, being held this Sunday the 15th of January at Lake Wendouree at 9.30pm.

More than 10,000 people are expected to line the Lake Wendouree foreshore for the free 15 minute fireworks event.

It will be the fourth Fireworks Spectacular Display put on by local pyrotechnician Matthew Batty from Northern Fireworks. 

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He says this year the opening sequence and finale will be bigger and brighter than ever. 

“It’s tough to top the fantastic shows from the previous few years. However, the opening sequence will be bigger, with a greater number of the larger fireworks, and the titanium salute finale has been extended for an even greater ‘wow’ impact!”

In 2020, it was voted to move the Australia Day fireworks from the 26th of January to reflect growing opinions that the day should be considered one of mourning for the impacts of colonisation on the Indigenous community, rather than a day of celebration.

Ballarat City Councillor Samantha McIntosh says most people support the move.

“I think it is a really nice way to move forward and bring everyone together. Australia Day matters to many people, Australia Day also holds concerns for many people, and what we’ve tried to do as a council is include everyone, and by putting Australia Day with Summer Sundays it’s provided people with a very special opportunity to enjoy the lake and surrounds”

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Cr. McIntosh says Council has tried to strike a balance for those wanting to acknowledge Australia Day.

“There will be a wonderful picnic at Vic Park (on January 26) and a great opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate those people that will be honoured, that will be stood on our local pedestal to be recognised for their great contributions to our community.”

Pressed on whether she thinks Council has done enough in the reconciliation space by moving the fireworks display, Cr. McIntosh points to New Zealand’s integration of Maori and colonial heritage from which Australia can learn.

“I think there are many opportunities for us to do much better. I love the dual naming (of place names in New Zealand), I love the way that those traditional territories and cultural aspects are embraced, and I think we can do more here in Australia.

What we need to do is remember people love Australia, and they love to celebrate a day that means being Australian. And if we can do that in a way that brings a broader part of our community together then I think we’ll be doing very well” she said.

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Cr. McIntosh adds that ultimately it’s not about taking anything away, but ensuring no one misses out.

“No matter what outcome we strike, no matter which day we decide as a Council to celebrate an event, there’s always going to be people with different views…if we as a council can do that in an amicable way then we will be doing very well.”

As to whether the new date for the fireworks will be permanent, Council says it will continue to review it in light of community wants and needs.

Frustration has emerged in Ballarat in regard to the lack of family friendly events held in the city on New Years Eve, with some suggesting council move the Fireworks Spectacular to December 31st rather than the Summer Sundays calendar.