Both Canberra and Queanbeyan will forego their Australia Day fireworks displays to focus on funding for bushfire relief.
The ACT Government says a morning concert in Commonwealth Park to raise funds for those impacted by bushfires will be the focus of Canberra’s Australia Day celebrations this year, replacing the annual fireworks show along Lake Burley Griffin.
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Councillor Tim Overall says redirecting funds from the Queanbeyan fireworks display will allow the council to contribute a further $5,000 toward the Braidwood Community Help Fund to support affected communities.
The ACT’s Acting Minister for the Arts, Creative Industries and Cultural Events, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said that changes to the format and location of the Canberra event were necessary given the ongoing impacts of the bushfires in our region.
“While our neighbours continue to battle bushfires, our emergency services personnel on alert and unpredictable weather in the weeks ahead, this is not the year for us to celebrate with fireworks,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“Rather, Australia Day is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the many Australians who are currently engaged in efforts to reduce the harm and trauma caused by bushfires this season.”
She said that due to the ongoing hot and dry weather and likelihood of ongoing smoke and poor air quality, the event would be moved to the morning to follow the public National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremonies at Rond Terrace.
Entertainment will run from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park and will feature Australian indie-pop musicians Japanese Wallpaper and Nicole Millar, who will be supported by Canberra’s own Monica Moore.
There will also be a variety of food trucks and family-friendly amusements.
The ACT Government is exploring opportunities with several charities to support the people, animals and natural environments directly impacted by the bushfires.
“This event will be an opportunity for Canberrans to gather their friends and family and enjoy a relaxed morning at Commonwealth Park with good food and great music.
“I am also aware that Canberrans have a range of views about Australia Day and that many do not see 26 January as a day for celebration. The ACT Government is committed to ensuring that our event is inclusive and respectful of all views, recognising that it is held on Ngunnawal land.”
More details will be released soon at events.act.gov.au/Australia-day.
The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has already given $10,000 to the Braidwood Community Help Fund, set up under the auspices of the Braidwood Community Bank and the Braidwood Life Centre, to distribute to farming families affected by drought and bushfires.
The funding, decided at the council’s final meeting of 2019 during the height of the North Black Range Fire, also allocated support to BlazeAid, whose volunteers work with families and individuals in rural areas to help rebuild fences and other structures damaged or destroyed in the fires.
Cr Overall said that since then the bushfire crisis had continued to impact more and more of Queanbeyan-Palerang’s communities.
“Our community, particularly those in Braidwood, Nerriga, Araluen, Majors Creek and surrounds have faced a very challenging time in recent weeks and months. Persistent dry conditions, water restrictions, bushfire and lingering smoke haze have all contributed to what has been a very tough end to 2019 and a difficult start to 2020,” Cr Overall said.
The council says its cancellation of the Australia Day fireworks is not a blanket ban on all fireworks in Queanbeyan. Other hirers of facilities in Queanbeyan may choose to include fireworks displays if granted appropriate permits by the NSW Rural Fire Service.
More information about assistance and support being offered to fire and drought-affected residents of Queanbeyan-Palerang is available at www.qprc.nsw.gov.au/Bushfire-and-Drought-assistance.
The council will be considering other assistance for fire-affected communities at its first meeting on 22 January.