Woolworths employees can choose when to celebrate Australia Day

Woolworths joins corporate rebellion against Australia Day telling 160,000 employees they can WORK instead of taking the day off – after Ten told workers: ‘January 26 is not a day of celebration’

  • Woolworths employees can choose to take the day off on Australia Day
  • Employees can take off January 26 or another day
  • Channel 10, Telstra, Deloitte, KPMG and EY can also choose

Woolworths workers will now have the option to skip Australia Day – after Channel 10 announced it would not be celebrating the national holiday. 

The supermarket giant said it decided to make Australia Day flexible in recognition of the pain January 26 represents to Indigenous people.

Woolworths, which has more than 160,000 workers across Australia, is the latest in a string of companies to announce staff can opt to work on January 26 and take another day of leave instead. 

Woolworths employees can choose whether they celebrate Australia Day with workers told they can take January 26 off or swap it for another date.

Woolworths employees can choose whether they celebrate Australia Day with workers told they can take January 26 off or swap it for another date. 

Woolworths said the decision is in recognition of what January 26 represents for Indigenous people and encouraged its workers to 'mark the day as it suits them' (pictured, an Australia Day reveller)

Woolworths said the decision is in recognition of what January 26 represents for Indigenous people and encouraged its workers to ‘mark the day as it suits them’ (pictured, an Australia Day reveller)

‘With more than 160,000 team members across the country, we’re proud to be a snapshot of Australian society,’ a Woolworths spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘To that end, we recognise the 26th of January means different things to different people. We think it’s up to each team member to mark the day as it suits them.

‘Our priority is creating a safe and supportive environment in our stores and sites and creating a workplace where every team member can belong.

‘We remain focused on our reconciliation commitments including supporting the aims of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.’

Media giant Channel 10, Telstra and accounting firms Deloitte (above), KPMG and EY have also told employees they can choose a day off to celebrate Australia Day instead of January 26

Media giant Channel 10, Telstra and accounting firms Deloitte (above), KPMG and EY have also told employees they can choose a day off to celebrate Australia Day instead of January 26

Woolworths is the latest in a string of companies to announce staff can opt to work on January 26 and take another day of leave instead.

Media giant Channel 10, Telstra and accounting firms Deloitte, KPMG and EY have also given employees the choice of when to celebrate Australia Day.  

The holiday will be the first time Telstra’s 29,000 employees can choose whether to work on Australia Day after they voted on the subject earlier in 2022.

‘Our employees have the choice to work on Australia Day or take leave on another day. This flexibility is built into the Enterprise Agreements our employees voted on earlier this year,’ a Telstra spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia. 

Telstra’s decision comes after Network 10 told staff they can choose how to spend the national holiday, and that it was ‘not a day to celebrate’ for Indigenous Australians.

In an internal email, Network 10 told staff they can choose how to spend the national holiday, and that it was ‘not a day to celebrate’ for Indigenous Australians. 

Paramount owns Network Ten and chief content officer, Beverley McGarvey, and co-lead Jarrod Villani only referred to Australia Day as ‘January 26’ in an email sent to all editorial and programming staff.

The pair told staff the date was ‘not a day of celebration’ for Indigenous people and said employees could decide whether to take the day off as a public holiday or work.

‘At Paramount ANZ we aim to create a safe place to work where cultural differences are appreciated, understood and respected,’ the pair wrote in the email, first published by The Australian’s Media Diary column.

‘For our First Nations people, we as an organisation acknowledge that January 26 is not a day of celebration.

‘We recognise that there has been a turbulent history, particularly around that date and the recognition of that date being Australia Day.

‘We recognise that January 26 evokes different emotions for our employees across the business, and we are receptive to employees who do not feel comfortable taking this day as a public holiday.’

KPMG said in a statement that its staff will also be allowed to skip Australia Day.

‘KPMG’s cultural leave policy allows people to swap an existing public holiday with a different day, so they can recognise and celebrate religious or significant events relevant to their culture, Indigenous heritage or religious beliefs. This also applies to Australia Day,’ a spokeswoman for the company said.

Controversy has surrounded the celebration of Australia Day in recent years, with many calling for the date to be changed in respect of Indigenous Australians.

Various councils around the country have boycotted the holiday, saying it doesn’t align with their views.

January 26, 1788 was the day the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove, with Governor Arthur Phillip raising a Union Jack flag.

The date has become increasingly controversial, with many Indigenous people observing it as a day of mourning and instead labelling it ‘Invasion Day’.

Earlier this year, Labor scrapped a controversial rule enforced by former prime minister Scott Morrison that forced councils to run citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

Councils can now hold the citizenship ceremonies any time from January 23 to 29.

Merri-bek Council in Melbourne’s north, recently announced it would cease hosting citizenship ceremonies on January 26, and will instead host a mourning ceremony to acknowledge the experiences of Indigenous Australians.

‘The very idea that we celebrate, hold parties and welcome new people to this country on this day is pretty shameful,’ Councillor James Conlan told a local council meeting earlier this month.

‘In a deeply twisted irony… the council asks First Nations elders to conduct their culturally significant Welcome to Country ceremony on a day that signifies their own disposition.’

Merri-bek Council is the third Melbourne council to discontinue Australia Day citizenship ceremonies, after the Yarra and Darebin councils did the same in 2017.

Those two councils are now not allowed to host citizenship ceremonies at any time of the year, following an order from the then-coalition federal government.

The Melbourne City Council in September also voted to advocate the federal government to change the date of Australia Day.

Citizenship ceremonies will still happen in the city on January 26 but council will also support efforts to acknowledge First Nations perspectives of the day.

The Inner West Council in Sydney and Moreland in Melbourne also scrapped their Australia Day events this year, while Byron Bay Council moved its citizenship ceremony to January 25.

WHY ACTIVISTS ARE FIGHTING TO CHANGE THE DATE OF AUSTRALIA DAY

Australian activists have long fought to change the date of Australia Day.

January 26 marks the day the first fleet arrived in 1788. 

While some see it as the beginning of modern Australian society, others see it as the beginning of the harsh oppression of Indigenous people. 

Activist group Common Ground explains: ‘Australia Day celebrations are not generally embraced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as some non-Indigenous people. 

‘For many First Nations people this day is recognised as Survival Day or Invasion Day. 

‘Because from this day in 1788 onwards, First Nations people suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and widespread oppression at the hands of the colonising forces. 

‘For First Nations people, January 26 is a day of mourning the history that followed the arrival of Sir Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet.

‘Many people believe that to truly celebrate this country we must find a date that includes all Australians.’

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