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Australia Day Citizenship Ceremonies To Become Compulsory

Under new changes to the code which governs how citizenship ceremonies are conducted, the Federal Government will force local councils to hold them on Australia Day.

The revision, announced on Sunday, is a push from the government to ensure Australia Day celebrations continue to be held on January 26, after multiple councils last year voted in favour of holding citizenship ceremonies on a less contentious date.

Melbourne's Yarra City Council voted in August to no longer refer to January 26 as Australia Day, instead replacing its citizenship ceremony with an event "marking the loss of Indigenous culture".

Just days later, Darebin Council in the city's north also voted to part with its Australia Day celebrations.

Both councils were stripped of their power to hold citizenship ceremonies.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman said the new code will provide guidance to councils hosting citizenship ceremonies, and "better reflect the expectations of the Australian community".

“New citizens should be given the opportunity to become an Australian on our national day,” Coleman said.

“While most Councils already hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day, becoming an Australian on our national day is a great privilege and I want more people to have that opportunity."

READ MORE: Nationals MP Gets Australia Day History Wrong

A recommended dress code will also be introduced for ceremony attendees, to reflect the "significance and formality" of the event, the government said.

"[I'm] happy for people to put on the boardies and thongs for the barbecue afterwards, but sometimes people turn up in dress that's just not appropriate, doesn't show the appropriate respect both for our national day and for citizenship ceremony itself," Scott Morrison said.

"I'm a Prime Minister that's for standards and I'm putting standards on councils if they want to run citizenship ceremonies."

Conferees will still be able to wear national or cultural dress to their ceremony.

The new code will be formally introduced in the first half of this year, and once official, councils choosing not to hold a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day will lose their ability to host citizenship ceremonies entirely.

Councils will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed code changes.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has played down the need for such a change to the code, noting that almost all councils already hold these ceremonies.

There are 537 councils in Australia, about 530 of them already have citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day," he claimed on Sunday.

"It's a couple of weeks before Australia day in January, it's a bit of slow news. The government is trying to play politics. It is what the conservatives do to keep their base happy."

Debate surrounding the appropriateness of Australia's national day was in the spotlight several times over the course of 2018.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison voiced his outrage over Byron Shire Council's decision to move all Australia Day celebrations, including the official citizenship ceremony, to the 25th out of respect for Indigenous Australians.

The council later backflipped on the decision amid the scrutiny, and continues to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day.