On Tuesday night Yarra Council voted to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day in official communications, and to cease holding citizenship ceremonies on the day. The federal government has now taken away the council’s right to hold the ceremonies altogether.

The council had planned to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26, but to continue holding them twice a month during the rest of the year. Yarra Council also agreed to support the #changethedate campaign to move the date of Australia Day.

Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke used powers outlined in the Citizenship Act of 2007 to take away Yarra Council officers’ authority to receive a pledge of commitment from new citizens.

“I am surprised and disappointed that the City of Yarra has chosen to pursue this divisive approach,” Minister Hawke said in a statement yesterday.

“I note that other councils, including Fremantle and Hobart, made the sensible decision to comply with the code rather than risk losing their ability to conduct citizenship ceremonies.”

Department of Immigration and Border Security officials will now conduct citizenship services on Australia Day in the City of Yarra. Yesterday in parliament Prime Minister Turnbull criticised Yarra Council’s unanimous vote to stop official celebrations on Australia Day.

“The decision recently of the Yarra Council is utterly out of step with Australian values. They are seeking to take a day which unites Australia and turn it into one which divides us,” he said.

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