Council criticised for not asking community before scrapping citizen awards
THE Sunshine Coast Council has been slammed for quietly scrapping the traditional Australia Day Awards and renaming them the Sunshine Coast Biosphere – Community Awards.
The move was labelled as “extremely disappointing” by one councillor, while Federal member for Fisher, Andrew Wallace, said it was a “disgrace”, promising to strip the council of funding for citizenship ceremonies if the LNP was re-elected.
State member for Glasshouse, Andrew Powell said it was a “huge blow” to the community.
Australia Day Awards have traditionally been awarded to citizens across broad fields who have achieved outstanding service in their community.
The new awards will now recognise those citizens who uphold the region’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve’s unique ‘values and goals’ and show “real examples of sustainability efforts and action in the community”.
“What better way to celebrate our amazing region, than by acknowledging the efforts of those people whose efforts uphold our unique Biosphere values and goals,” Environment Portfolio Councillor Maria Suarez said.
But the decision was criticised by Division 5 Councillor, Winston Johnston, who was concerned that the opinion of the community was not sought before a decision was made by councillors.
It is understood the decision was not taken to the council’s ordinary meeting.
“I was extremely disappointed about the decision because I strongly believed the community should have been consulted before the decision was made,” he said.
Mr Wallace was livid at the decision, but added he was not surprised. “I’m aghast,” he said.
“I think it’s a disgrace and I’m very disappointed.
“Australians have had enough of this woke nonsense. If anyone working in council can’t support Australia Day then what are they doing in public office?”
Mr Wallace said an LNP government would cut councils of funding for ceremonies if they did not support Australia Day events.
“If council is so against celebrating Australia Day, then they should be stripped of funding,” he said.
“When we are in Government again that is exactly what will happen.
“It’s a matter of principal.”
Mr Wallace also urged councillors to publicly state their position.
“Let them have the courage of their convictions,” he said.
“And I would encourage every ratepayer to remember that position when they go to vote next year.”
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson defended the decision not to consult the community, saying they had sought feedback from “internal and external stakeholders”.
“The opportunity to rebadge the awards, was presented and discussed in collaboration with councillors, council staff and the Sunshine Coast Biosphere committee, which comprises both internal and external stakeholders,” they said.
“The decision [was] made to progress, noting that there are other Australia Day initiatives delivered and supported by Council and that the awards provide an opportunity to align with and promote our unique global Biosphere status.”
Mr Powell said the decision was a “huge blow to the many amazing individual community organisations that go above and beyond”.
“Whilst protecting our environment is important, the Sunshine Coast is much more than that,” he said.
“You just have to look at the incredible contributions across business, sport, the arts, tourism, service clubs and community groups to understand this.”
The Sunshine Coast was awarded UNESCO biosphere status in 2022.
According to the council, a “biosphere credential … will ensure our region adapts to change, while maintaining our special natural areas and our unique lifestyle”.