Torquay ,December 10 : A Victorian council has banned circuses with caged wild animals from performing on its land and abandoned Christian prayers at its meetings.
The Mayor of Surf Coast Shire, Margot Smith, said the ban on circuses using animals such as lions and elephants was an effort by the council to keep up with changing views in society.
Surf Coast Shire councillors voted the ban in last night, after a receiving a report from council officers.
Cr Smith said circuses without wild animals were still welcome, and that the council's move was a reflection of changing views in society.
She said councillors no longer accepted the containment of animals "for entertainment purposes."
"Many years ago in Torquay, we had quite a few complaints about an elephant who was part of a circus that had been chained up on a hot day, really distressed," she said.
"It really doesn't reflect how people want to see wild animals now."The Hobsons Bay Council, south-west of Melbourne, has had a similar ban in place since 2012.
Secular pledge to replace council prayers. Surf Coast Shire councillors also voted overwhelmingly to abandon the practice of opening council meetings with a Christian prayer.
Instead, councillors will make a secular pledge. Cr Smith said the decision was not about rejecting religion."The purpose of that was actually around inclusiveness," she said.
"We want to make sure that no-one - none of our councillors, none of our community - feel uncomfortable with either the language we use and the procedures that we take."
Eight councillors voted to support the motion and one voted against it.
Cr Smith said the support for a secular pledge reflected a growing view in her community that religion had no place in civic life.
"It was actually about taking the religion away from it, it wasn't about rejecting religion," she said. "It was about let's make this commitment that if you want to make it a religious thing then you can do it quietly.
"But in terms of what we say in front of the community, we felt that it was better to take the religious part out of it."
The Municipal Association of Victoria does not keep figures on how many councils open meetings with a Christian prayer, but many councils do, especially in regional Victoria.
The City of Greater Geelong, which shares a border with the Surf Coast Shire, begins each meeting by acknowledging the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land.