Why I’d like to see us change the date of Australia Day

I just don’t feel the same about Australia Day any more. I used to enjoy it as a day celebrating how happy I was to live in this great country, with the way we spent the day highlighting some of those things – enjoying one of Queensland’s beautiful beaches, and the sun, surf and sand before heading home to bbq some lamb.

Havianna's Thong Challenge at Mooloolaba
Enjoying a day at the beach for Havianna’s Thong Challenge on Australia Day in 2014

But in recent years it’s become increasingly obvious that celebrating Australia Day on January 26 is not something that all Australian’s can engage in, and in fact it’s a date that has incredibly negative connotations for Aboriginal Australians.

No doubt this year, as there have been for quite a number of years, there will be plenty of words written bemoaning the fact that we can’t all just come together and enjoy the day, but it’s pretty clear that’s never going to happen so long as January 26 is the date in question.

On so many other fronts in our lives we take the view that it doesn’t matter whether you think what you have said or done is offensive, if another party is offended by your actions then it’s just basic good manners to acknowledge that and modify your behaviour. So why can’t we do the same here? January 26 is a date that reflects a particularly dark moment in our history that is really challenging to associate with any kind of celebration, not just for Indigenous people but for any Australian who knows and embraces this country’s history. Many people have suggested we pick another date without any of the baggage that will genuinely allow us all to come together and celebrate what makes our country such a wonderful place to live, and I’d love to see us move forward and engage in a genuine national conversation on the topic.

I don’t think there are too many Australians whose Australia Day celebrations are deeply tied to the landing date of the First Fleet, I know none that I’ve been involved in ever have, instead they focus on the lifestyle that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, created by the combination of all of the different cultures who have come together in this country filled with opportunity. Let’s face it, it’s only since 1994 that Australia Day has actually been celebrated on the actual date of January 26, before that we just used to take the closest Monday off to make a long weekend.

So this Australia Day I’ll still reflect on how glad I am to live here, but my heart will hope that it won’t be long before we can move those celebrations to a more inclusive date, that better matches the way the majority of Australians think and behave today.

8 comments on “Why I’d like to see us change the date of Australia Day

  1. I agree totally. This day was an inception and promotion of John Howard, a renowned denialist and racist. What about Federation Day, the day Australia come into existence.

  2. 26 Jan is he day the Whites arrived. This was the first day of what was to come. Let us united on this day to remember our shameful past as well as the good and to commit to all Australians, black and white that our future does not have to be bad. There are black and white keys on a piano and it can make the most beautiful music when all are played in the same song, just as there are black and white people who can make a beautiful country if all commit to understanding each others part in the music of life and accepting that without each other the music is flawed.

  3. Maybe it would be better to have it on the 25th January. Whites were happy in their ship (or not) and Mari fellas were non-the wiser enjoying their country without guns and barbarity and smallpox. I agree and want the date changed but the best way would be to ask the aggrieved party for a suitable day – consultation.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. I can’t embrace the day anymore like I did previously. I feel that the day is the Australian ‘Thanksgiving’, which I believe holds such lovely non-commercialised ideals and expressions of gratitude and I would love to see us move the day. As it stands, my mind always goes to the invasion and I can’t help but feeling guilty and distressed at events I personally had no hand in.

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