One of Victoria’s top bureaucrats has weighed in on the Australia Day debate, telling staff it meant “the invasion and associated violence and dispossession of the country” for many people, and that the civil servants who did not wish to celebrate January 26 could take another day off. .
Department for Families, Equity and Housing Secretary Sandy Pitcher sent a message to staff on the eve of this year’s bank holiday, pointing out a little-known civil service rule giving bureaucrats the right to replace holidays by other days.
“I want to acknowledge and acknowledge that this is not a national holiday for everyone,” Pitcher wrote.
“For some, it’s a day celebrated with friends and family. But for many, January 26 can be a difficult day, especially for Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islanders and Australians reflecting on the invasion, associated violence and dispossession of the country.
“Please speak to your manager and consider operational and business requirements if you wish to discuss work on January 26 and take a potential alternate day off.”
In the same post, Pitcher says she wants to encourage people to think “a little deeper” about Australia’s past.
Under clause 50.5(a) of the Victoria Public Service Agreement (2020), state bureaucrats have the right to substitute another day for any public holiday “for observing religious or cultural occasions or similar reasons important to the employee”.
Pitcher’s post was revealed amid calls to dump January 26 as a public holiday. Many consider it offensive and painful as it marks the day in 1788 when the first Governor of NSW, Arthur Phillip, planted a Union Jack in Sydney Cove and declared British sovereignty over the land.