CANBERRA, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticized a local government for its decision to abolish any reference to Australia Day.
Melbourne's Yarra Council on Tuesday night voted unanimously to stop referring to Jan. 26 as Australia Day and stop holding citizenship ceremonies on the day.
Australia Day marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia in 1788, but Indigenous Australians have long referred to it as Invasion Day, calling it a symbol of the loss of Aboriginal culture associated with the landing.
Turnbull on Wednesday morning said the council's vote was a rejection of the values associated with Australia Day.
"The council is using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
"I recognize Australia Day, and its history, is complex for many Indigenous Australians but the overwhelming majority of Australians believe the 26th of January is the day and should remain our national day.
"The citizenship ceremonies around Australia are all about inclusion. We begin with a welcome to country and an acknowledgment of country, and we celebrate our multicultural nation; we celebrate the oldest continuous human culture on earth, of our First Australians, just as we celebrate the youngest baby in the newest citizen's arms."
He said that the Yarra Council would be stripped of its authority to conduct citizenship ceremonies as early as Thursday.
Stephen Jolly, a City of Yarra councillor, said that people within the area would still be free to celebrate however they saw fit on Jan. 26.
"We are a small council. If the City of Yarra decides to call it January 26 ... that does not stop the vast majority of people in the council area calling it Australia Day," Jolly said.
"No one is going to jail because they are having an Australia Day barbecue."