Moreland is an inner-city multicultural community and home to many recently-arrived migrants and former asylum seekers – who often go on to become Australian citizens in moving ceremonies, hosted by the Mayor. Recently, Mayor Meghan Hopper decided not to read aloud a message from Minister Scott Morrison during citizenship ceremonies because of the government’s controversial asylum seeker policies.
Mayor Hopper writes for Mamamia about her council’s decision and the Minister’s response that threatens the annual Australia Day citizenship ceremony…
In my first speech after being elected Mayor of the City of Moreland, I was stopped twice for applause. Once was when I reflected on gender equality in politics. The other was when I spoke about Moreland’s enduring commitment to asylum seekers.
I’m very proud to represent one of the most diverse, eclectic and progressive municipalities in Australia. Moreland is a city in Melbourne’s inner north that is home to a thriving arts and cultural scene, the longest shopping strip in the Southern hemisphere, and some of the best baklava you’ve ever eaten.
It’s also home to generations upon generations of immigrants from all across the globe – from the Greeks and Italians who built Brunswick’s early industries, to the Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, Pakistani and Nepalese communities who make suburbs like Coburg, Fawkner and Pascoe Vale their home today.
And while my family first made their home in Moreland four generations ago, I know that for many of our residents, the reality is very different. Theirs has been a reality of hardship and persecution. A reality that has brought them to Moreland, perhaps over rocky seas, seeking a better life.
When I became Mayor I made a commitment to uphold Moreland’s support for asylum seekers. It’s a commitment I intend to honour.
One of the aspects of the role I was most looking forward to was hosting our citizenship ceremonies. Citizenship ceremonies mark the beginning of a new chapter for our newest residents. They are a time to be celebrated with loved ones, to reflect upon the circumstances that led to the beginning of a new life in Australia. They are an apolitical ceremony, intended to commemorate the unique and patriotic commitment between citizen and country.
Citizenship ceremonies are funded and organised entirely by the Local Governments who host them.
When I found out that the then-Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison MP, had provided a statement that he wanted the Mayor to read out at citizenship ceremonies, I knew immediately that I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. And I wrote to the Minister and told him simply that.
Issue is not msg content but practice of being forced to read it. Gov cannot veil their policies with hollow words. pic.twitter.com/CAOcrkmSdI
— Cr Meghan Hopper (@Meghan4Moreland) January 1, 2015