23 January 2018

Lets have Australia Day on a date where we can all celebrate

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Australia Day - Time to change the date.

Australia Day – Time to change the date.

There has been major furore accompanying the suggestion that we need to think about changing the date of Australia Day. Significant criticism has been aimed at people who have questioned if celebrating this holiday on 26 January is ok given this date marks the beginning of a history of dispossession, disenfranchise and racism towards the First Australians.

It is quite astounding to watch the moves to shut down these conversations, ridicule and punish councils and organisations that have tried to respond to the understandable concerns raised, deny the reality of what the current situation does to people or to brand those who suggest we need to think about changing the date of Australia as unpatriotic.

This tells us a lot about where we are as a Nation in our reconciliation journey.

For me, rather than being divisive, the discussion that has started around the change the date campaign has been really useful. It has given me context around how 26 January has not always been the date which has marked this celebration and a better understanding around how the values and traditions that have been attached to Australia Day in recent years is a relatively new reality. While recognising that even within the Aboriginal community there is a diversity of views, this discussion has made it clear that many Aboriginal people see this celebration on the date chosen as deeply offensive and hurtful.

It is true that moving the date of Australia Day will do little to improve the significant disadvantage faced by local Aboriginal communities. This does not mean we shouldn’t do it as an important step in our reconciliation journey. For a start, it is important that we do not actively reinforce trauma and hurt for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dealing with dispossession. We can’t ignore that a significant group within our community expresses their inability to be part of a celebration that is promoted as a chance to come together as Australians. More than that however, moves such as this signal our commitment as a community to be part of the reconciliation journey. It’s about us honestly meeting our history and recognising that we all need to change in order to create environments where reconciliation is possible and disadvantage can be reduced.

We all need to consider how we should engage with this issue. I know I already have started. I always loved celebrating the Australia Day holiday and we have carved out family rituals and traditions for the day. However, in recent years as we have reflected on the impact of this particular holiday on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, it has become more difficult to ignore the hurt and trauma of choosing this of all days to celebrate unity, tolerance and diversity. Our family has found that rituals and traditions can change – and shouldn’t our community also be able to evolve and grow?

As well as how we respond personally, we also need to think about how we respond as a community. Here in the ACT, the Government is to be commended for trying to recognise the need to reflect on reconciliation, with the declaration of ‘Reconciliation Day’ as an annual public holiday from May this year. This, however, does not negate the need for us as a community to reflect deeply, with good faith and empathy on how we mark the date of 26 January in the ACT.

So, this Australia Day I will be taking time to reflect on all our history – the times where we have shone as Australians, and the times when we haven’t done as well as we could have. I will also be taking the time to reflect on what I can do to stand in solidarity and move forward as a united community into a future where we are all prepared to do our bit to improve the lives of everyone in our community.

I think it is time to talk about changing the date of Australia Day and finding a date that is more inclusive and where all Australians can unite behind. What do you think?

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Only 25% of the commenters are endorsing a change of date so far.

I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t buy a NADOC flag anywhere, when around Australia Day there are lots of British/Australian Flags at very cheap prices in places like the Reject Shop.
I mentioned to a friend that I’d like to fly both flags to Celebrate our combined Country. He had an even better idea; make it a 4-day weekend to commemorate the arrival of the British and to respect Our First Settlers. I thought it was a great idea. When? Summer. Peace.

I am a Rabbit™9:23 am 28 Jan 18

You can’t purchase the flag because it isn’t in the public domain. The copyright owner doesn’t allow companies to have anything to do with it unless they pay massive licensing fees. I remember that the person in question denied Google the ability host drawings by an 11 year old featuring indigenous art because, in his own words, they wouldn’t pay him money.

It would be a great idea, except the people wanting the date changed will not be happy as long as there is any positive recognition of the First Fleet.

The people suggesting Lady Mungo’s discovery date are not taking account of the fact that Torres Strait Islanders arrived in Australia 2,500 years ago, not 50,000 years ago. This is a fact that rarely gets a mention.

Affirmative Action Man10:22 pm 26 Jan 18

“our Indigenous people belong to the oldest continuous culture in the world”.

I don’t get this at all. How is Australian Indigenous culture any older than other cultures such as the Chinese or Egyptian. My culture goes back at least that far. Does it mean that the culture was unchanged for 50,000 years before 1788 ??

Capital Retro10:23 am 28 Jan 18

Culture is related to a society and the nomadic indigenous people in Australia did not fit this description.

You can argue how far back they went until the cows came home but it’s academic because there was no culture.

Very very wrong. The Indigenous people of Australia most certainly did have a culture. Naturally it did change over time and it is very difficult to determine how much their culture as seen a couple of hundred years ago was the same as their culture 50,000+ years ago. But it changed much less than that of the Egyptians (for example).

A more realistic question would be “Is it still a living culture?” How many people still in a way that would be culturally close to how it was before the British came? i.e. same lifestyle, language, laws, belief, technology etc? Given a choice between white culture or aboriginal culture, how many aboriginals want to get a chunk of land and go and live on it without the benefits of white culture?

How many of the whites who are so negative of British colonisation would honestly like to go and live as per traditional aboriginal culture?

Capital Retro3:50 pm 29 Jan 18

Where are the chronicles that support the “traditional culture” you claim they had?

The rally in Melbourne has some disturbing aspects:


“Organisers of the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne said they were not campaigning to change the date but that they want Australia Day to be abolished, the Herald Sun reported.

Elder Tony Birch said the country was “not mature enough” to celebrate on any day, not just January 26.

“This country does not deserve a day of national celebration in any capacity,” he said”


“Marchers loudly chanted “always was, always will be Aboriginal land” before marching down Bourke St.”

So if anyone is wondering what the end goal of the organisers of the rally is it seems to be:

The complete removal of Australia day in any form, so forget trying to find a replacement date.

The return of all Australian land (yes including your house) to Aboriginals or compensation for it.

It seems very clear that changing the date will not make them happy. It will simply be seen as a step towards their ultimate goal.

Man With The Plan9:58 am 26 Jan 18

Australia day should remain on the 26th of January. I see no valid reason for the date to be changed.

At Joe, Firstly yes no problem with another national Public Holiday holiday. The ACT will have 2 in May

The left and indigenous activists would still object to Founders Day on the 26th when the ACT (and present day Victoria and Queensland) was declared a part of NSW.

Jason Heddle9:19 pm 25 Jan 18

All for it if it’s going to be more inclusive for all Australians
Australia Day is more than a date…

People who claim that Jan 26 (and the First Fleet in general) have no relevance to modern multicultural Australia should take a look around and consider what the country would be like if the British hadn’t colonised this continent (and also assuming no other foreign power did).

It would not be one country. How many countries would make up this land is unknowable but could be a dozen or a hundred.

Laws and the justice system would also be different. If the reports in the ABC over the past few years are reliable, the growing push for our current system to recognise and accept the use of violent traditional punishment would indicate that our current justice system is much better than the alternative.

Perhaps the best image of Australia without the British would be the highlands of New Guinea.

So why are the multicultural immigrants coming to this land? Is it because they are enamoured with Aboriginal culture, or it because they are attracted to the stable and tolerant society that resulted from British colonisation?

People who claim that January 26 has no relevance today are ignoring history and also ignoring the realities of the present.

People who state that 26th of January has only been a recent holiday either were born recently or don’t know their history.

Australia Day (or its predecessor names) has been celebrated for over a century in the different states and from 1931-35 it became a national holiday on the Monday to make a long weekend.

Lots of newspaper articles out their too recording the day:




Absolutely no problem with changing the date but I think it’s a case of the grass is always greener. Making Australia Day more inclusive is a nice idea but how do we ever know if it has been achieved? And it’s clear many people will be extremely bitter over the change. From the Federal Government’s perspective they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Just look at NZ. Not quite the same issue – but even as a small and more progressive country they failed to change their flag.

Was Australia invaded?

Capital Retro12:52 pm 25 Jan 18

I suppose you will be marching with Shane Rattenbury as a protest against “Invasion Day”?

While I respect your opinion on the issue I’ll be blunt by saying that as long as you and your fellow travellers believe Australia was invaded, the notion that we need reconciliation with the few remaining descendants of the people who were living in this land prior to 1770 will be eternal. In fact, I will go so far as to say it has become an industry and a lot people are making a tidy living out of it so let’s keep the narrative going, eh?

Your decision to use the aboriginal flag along with the Australian flag to head this article is divisive and only serves to deepen the rift. As soon as only the Australian flag is the only one in this country the sooner we can all move on.

I have never had any issue with people identifying as aboriginal and none that I know have ever indicated to me that I need to reconcile with them. We all get along just fine.

3 March seems like a pretty good date to me. The date the Australia Act came into law and Britain no longer had the power to make or decide Australian law. It’s when we actually grew up and left home for good.

It’s still pretty warm around then. The kids have been at school for a few weeks so a long weekend seems to fit nicely.

And more importantly, it won’t significantly offend a portion of the population.

I don’t think the date should change to be more “inclusive” it should be changed to reflect something more about Australia.
At the moment it is the day that the colony of Sydney was established with the First Fleet. From my basic understanding of national holidays around the world, Australia and Spain are the only countries that celebrate the day’s that they were first settled.
All the rest are on dates that celebrate independence or revolutions.
The best date we have at the moment is when the colonies became federated, January 1st. I doubt that is the date that anyone wants Australia Day to be celebrated. This could be celebrated on 9 July, the date that “The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900” was given Royal Ascent.
Should it be the date that “New Holland” changed to Australia?
Jan 21, the date that Australia was claimed wholly as a British Colony (probably just as bad as current Australia day.)
How about when the Australian Colonies Act 1850 came into being? All the states were able to be self governed?
9 May, the first day of Parliament in Canberra?
16 September, the day that TV is introduced to Australia (very inclusive)
14 Feb – the launch of Australian Currency
27 May – the day the constitution changed to allow everyone, including Aboriginals to be counted in the census
The date of the abolishment of the White Australia Policy?
I’m sure there are more….
Or we could wait until we become a Republic and just change it then?

Tony Birch, Indigenous X, The guardian “I would assume that those campaigning to change the date would argue that such a move would be indicative of a “gesture of inclusion” or “one step towards reconciliation and healing”. Such is the rhetoric of symbolic gestures in settler-colonial societies incapable of countenancing either the relinquishment of power, or the contemplation of genuine remorse. A change to the date of an unreflected national pageant will do nothing to shake the collective psyche from a pathological need to wave a flag dominated by the symbol of imperialism and bloody conquest.”

Ouch. Clearly changing the date won’t please everyone. As with a lot of issues we hear from the fanatics at both ends of the political spectrum and the middle, including myself, is apathetic. Shifting it to the day we become a republic is probably the easiest sell.

When even Aboriginal elders are saying “We have more important things to worry about”, in steps the do gooder full of white guilt…

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