16 January 2023

Federal public servants don't have to take 26 January off

| Chris Johnson
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Australia Day Projections at the Carillion

Australia Day has a very different meaning for First Nations people. Photo: Dom Northcott.

Australian Public Servants can ask for another day of leave instead of the 26 January Australia Day public holiday, but many seem unaware of that right.

With the date and what it symbolises becoming increasingly controversial, the Federal Government has made provisions for those public servants who do not want to celebrate it.

APS employees can request through their immediate managers or their agency heads to work on 26 January and substitute it for an alternative day’s leave.

It is a provision most state and territory governments – including the ACT – are not providing their public servants.

The federal decision is a conscious and deliberate decision of the Labor government.

Prior to the election, Scott Morrison’s Coalition government forced the federal workforce to take leave on Australia Day, Anzac Day and Queen’s Birthday (now King’s Birthday) public holidays.

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A spokesperson for the Australian Public Service Commission told Region that Labor revoked that order soon after coming to office last year.

“Most APS enterprise agreements contain provisions for APS employees to request substitution of a specific public holiday, where agreed between an employee and their manager or agency head,” the spokesperson said.

“The former government’s directive that limited substitution of certain public holidays in new enterprise agreements has been revoked by the Minister for the Public Service, Senator Katy Gallagher.”

Many APS employees, however, are unaware that they can work on the Australia Day holiday.

“It’s just wrong that public servants have to take the day off on January 26,” one told Region.

“It’s an offensive day to so many people and that should be recognised by the Federal Government. No one should be forced to have that day off to commemorate something so hurtful.”

Similar sentiment, and surprise, was repeated by a number of public servants approached by Region.

Many First Nations people object to commemorating 26 January as Australia Day as they regard it as a celebration of the invasion of their country.

The date is instead recognised as a day of mourning by Indigenous Australians.

They are finding increasing support from the broader Australian community, with continued calls for the date to be changed.

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Each year more councils around the nation vote to end or curtail Australia Day celebrations in their jurisdictions, and a growing number of non-government and private sector organisations are giving their staff wider choices over when to take their Australia Day leave.

The latest State of the Service report notes that 3.5 per cent of the 159,469 APS workforce identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Services Australia has the largest proportion of Indigenous employees, with 34 per cent of the overall APS Indigenous workforce.

Services Australia is also a leading example in the APS of an agency embedding Indigenous respect in its workplace culture.

It has a Reconciliation Action Plan at ‘elevate’ status, meaning it has taken significant steps in providing career pathways for First Nations people, consultation with Indigenous leadership, dedicated Indigenous mentoring programs and more.

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It is rude and disrespectful for those who work in the APS to not celebrate Australia’s national day – which is Australia Day. We live in sad times when celebrating Australia Day and flying the Australian flag is viewed as some sort of right wing extremism. Sadly, Australia is losing its national identity and is quickly becoming a country of no values, no cohesion, no identity and no nationhood. A country of anarchy, division and chaos (thanks to greens/lab)

William Newby11:01 pm 16 Jan 23

We are becoming increasingly divided. Our flag, our national day, our demicratic system.
We worry about China invading or the ongoing threat of terrorists while we blindly destroy this Australia and take ourselves out!

Australia was never invaded, it didn’t exist until 1901. Which country pre-dates Australia that was invaded?
England sent convicts, not invaders.

Are we to forgo any celebration of the starting of a country that includes Aboriginals, due the the primary reason that the day led to a cultural change?
Does changing the day but still celebrating the founding of a diverse country change anything at all, or is the point being made that we shouldn’t celebrate anything at all?
If we shouldn’t celebrate who we are as a nation what effort is being made to identify and change who we are?

Do these same people get upset when they attend the doctor, enjoy sports, attend school or any of the other plethora of other activities that are a result of ‘the invasion’.

Many Indigenous Australians also celebrate Australia Day. Like most topics, the others really only hate it because they’re told they should hate it.

SigmaOctantis8:46 pm 16 Jan 23

The APS isn’t there for social engineering. Maybe they’ve forgotten that.

The whole matter is rather silly. Any public servant can negotiate with their manager to take leave n specific dates. I have had this type of conversation with Muslim and Hindu staff who wish to trade one holiday for another. Having worked on Christmas and New years day it is not that big a deal. Get over it.

A good move, forced nationalism is not what democracy is about. We live in a country where we are able to demonstrate our values – Australia Day has become a flag for the far right and conservatives to wage culture wars.

How precious, perhaps they can take the day of King Charles coronation off in lieu in honour of our country’s rich English heritage! #votenoindigenousvoice

What next? Public servant’s picking and choosing when they take any public holiday?

They can save them all off and just have a week off whenever if it comes to that.

What a ridiculous move by the government.

26th January is a national public holiday and no matter what you think about that day, public servants shouldn’t be able to just pick and choose whether they will observe it.

Otherwise, why isn’t the same approach taken for every public holiday?

Stephen Saunders10:39 am 16 Jan 23

Well done, Minister Gallagher. This was a spiteful edict from Ben Morton, in the dying months of the Morrison Government.

On the other hand, Minister Leigh is still enthralled, by his impending King Charles coinage. Out of touch.

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