The federal government will now force local councils to host a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.
But Junee’s mayor is not convinced the decision will work.
Since taking office in 2014, Neil Smith says he has rarely had reason to host a ceremony on January 26.
With so few new citizens in the town, on average only three ceremonies take place each year.
“I always try to accommodate the person wanting citizenship,” said the mayor.
“If it coincides with Australia Day, I’d encourage them to do it on that day, but we don’t usually have someone ready at that time of the year.”
Mandating a ceremony on that day, may cause unnecessary and artificial backlog in smaller towns, Mayor Smith says.
“It’s a bit unfair to make them wait until Australia Day if they’re ready at another time of the year,” he said.
“When you have a larger population, you can schedule something bigger, and have a few people together.
“But for us it’s a small family gathering usually only for one person at a time.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new rule this week, following ongoing debate over the significance of the date.
January 26 recognises the arrival of England’s First Fleet in Australia, and celebrations of the event are seen by some to be disrespectful to the nation’s Indigenous population.
Several local councils across the nation have recently voted to move their annual citizenship ceremonies to less contentious dates.
But Immigration Minister David Coleman’s plans to adjust the citizenship code will now make it impossible to choose otherwise.
Mayor Smith believes the government’s effort would be better expended towards something that promotes more collegiality in small towns.
“What we need to do is not not just pay lip-service to Indigenous people, we need to properly pay tribute to their culture,” said Mayor Smith.
“I would personally like to see more included in the Australia Day ceremony that would pay respect to Indigenous culture.”
This year, Junee’s council will include a rendition of Judith Durham’s re-written national anthem, which was also adopted as the National Rugby League’s song of choice in 2017.