The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Australia Day outrage? Seriously?

Fellow citizens,

Our nation marks January 26 as Australia Day. A very, very important day - so it appears.

It was held in such high esteem by the public, held with such reverence, that it wasn't until 1935 that all Australian states and territories used that name to mark the date, and it wasn't until 1994 that we even began to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on that date. [Dr Elizabeth Kwan]

Many of us would remember how the holiday was always granted on the nearest Monday to ensure a long weekend. That's how important the date of January 26 was!

Then, of course, there are these: 



So all this outrage over changing the date is just a lot of old codswallop.

To have a true national day it should be fully inclusive of all its citizens.

Indigenous people tell the rest of us that January 26 is a very sad day for them as it marks an invasion of their lands - lands they had lived happily on for 60,000 years - and ultimately a destruction of their way of life.

And, of course, they are right. It was an invasion. There was no permission sought, there was no negotiation, the land was taken by force.

Every piece of land in Australia today that is not held under Native Title is stolen land.

They say to the rest of us, in light of these realities, that we should change the date of Australia Day to another date that embraces all the nation's citizens, including Indigenous citizens.

And this is not a new plea from Indigenous people.

In 1938, to mark the 150th anniversary of the settlement being declared in Sydney Cove in 1788, Indigenous people held "A Day of Mourning".




Why is this so hard to understand?

Why is the collective hurt, the very deep hurt, that is being felt by Indigenous people being ignored by so many Australians?

Research published by Review Partners in February 2017 found 59% of Australians were against changing the date of Australia Day from January 26, confirming research published by Essential Media in February 2016 which also found the same percentage, 59%, were against changing the date.

But why?

What is so special about this date? Especially when the Review Partners research found that only 43% of respondents correctly knew that January 26 marked the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove. (21% thought it marked Captain Cook's landing in 1770 and 17% thought it marked the date of Australia's federation.)

Our Indigenous people are saying to us, "We are hurting!" and our collective response is to say, "Stiff shit!"

As a nation we have form.

The recalcitrant John Howard stubbornly refused to apologise to the stolen generations for years and it took the election of a Labor Government under Kevin Rudd in 2007 to finally say "Sorry".

Without any doubt this was Rudd's finest hour, and one he should be remembered well for.  





We stole their land and we stole their children and in doing so we stole their dignity.

Kevin Rudd acknowledged and addressed an important part of that hurt.

Now there's another opportunity for a leader to step up and say to our Indigenous people, "We recognise your hurt and we are going to do something about it. January 26 will no longer be celebrated as Australia Day. It will now become January 1, the date the Federation of Australia occurred."

It's such a simple change and one that would mean so much to Indigenous people and, just as "Sorry Day" was, be a wonderful unifying moment for our nation.

It would help to restore a great deal of dignity. Not just for our Indigenous people, but for the rest of us, too.




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