Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Community

Canberras newest Healthy Lifestyle Centre, Form Fitness. Transform.

What does Australia Day mean to you?

By Suzanne Kiraly - 26 January 2017 15

SurfingUnsplash

In the lead-up to Australia Day, Indigenous author Anita Heiss’s published a post on Facebook about how she feels about Australia Day. Here is an excerpt from her post.

At its heart and in so many ways this is a wonderful landscape to live within. In every community, city and town I visit I am enriched learning about and from the original storytellers of Australia. But our country has debilitating elements of xenophobia and a racist underbelly that needs to be addressed, and these are compounded when a national day like January 26 completely dismisses the truth of how Australia was founded, rendering Aboriginal people as invisible, non-existent, not only back then but right now in 2017.

But my hope for the future is that 2018 presents all Australians with a greater understanding of our shared history, a new date, a new opportunity for us all to celebrate with national pride, and yes, where we can all enjoy a public holiday with meaning and maybe even a lamb snag too!

You can read the full article here: https://anitaheiss.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/why-ill-be-working-on-january-26/

I am a big fan of Anita’s and she has been one of this country’s star writers. She has carried the flag for Indigenous literature for a long time now, but I was thinking (as I was reading it), about the divisiveness surrounding this day every year. Apart from the Indigenous question, the latest this year was the controversy around the billboard of the two young Muslim Aussie girls celebrating the day, holding Aussie flags. Even the Canberra Theatre had issues (threats) regarding this poster.

So I thought I’d take a survey amongst my friends and acquaintances in Canberra to see what this day meant to them.

You can have your say, too, in our poll and in the comments below.

What does Australia Day mean to you?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Here are some of my findings. Most people, it seems to me, think of it as a long weekend holiday, and said they didn’t give much thought to it at all. But there were different responses from our citizens who originally came from overseas.

See a selection of some of these holiday focused comments below:

“Great day for a barbecue. We always celebrate with a big barbecue with all of our friends and then we go to the coast for the days around it. We drink lots of beer. Great weekend. So for me, it’s about celebrating the end of the holidays.” – Jurgo

“Good times (ie cold beer, friends, family, generally relaxing, without problems in life in Australia). Isn’t that what we fought for? Or is it life in general in Aus? I’m going with relaxing with no problema!!” – Piker

“A day to celebrate the good life with family and friends.” – Irene

“Australia Day gives me the chance to reflect on what a beautiful place I live in and how appreciative I am to be here.” – Rochelle

“I like to go to Sydney to celebrate, as January is the best month for visiting, due to their month-long festival and I love to be near the water in the heat of Summer, in any case. So for me, it means a weekend away.” – Ashleigh

“Simple. The tennis.” – Sally

“It’s a great time to go to the coast and celebrate the long weekend. Not that much into the deep and meaningful of it all – don’t care about the hype of Australian of the Year awards either. Not into patriotism. It’s a thing of the past and should stay in the past. It causes wars. Better to focus on the snags on the barbie.” – JJ

And some of the ones focusing on the controversial aspect:

“Controversy.” – Tristan

“It’s a reminder that the English set up a prison camp in someone else’s country and then set about murdering the original inhabitants. It’s a reminder that we have no treaty with Indigenous tribes and have, at no point since 1788, treated Aboriginal people as equals. Australia Day reminds me of our cruel past and if it were presented as a memorial and not a celebration this could be a good thing.” – Judith

“To me, it means great pride in all the wonderful aspects of our country, but also terror, where ungrateful and insensitive leaders (and some citizens) are plunging many of us into despair. I’m always very keen to celebrate the wonder that is Australia. Hopefully. this celebration and valuing lifts us to greater heights and positive emotions.” – Michael

“It means not being able to celebrate as I would like because the date is inappropriate, insensitive and disrespectful.” – Michael

And finally, from some Aussies who originated from other countries and settled here:

“Australian Day is a reminder for us to bond as a multicultural nation. Be tolerant, inclusive and positive this year.” – Penny (originally from China)

“I remember on this day about how I got citizenship – it was the nicest memory. Very special for me and my family. We had come a long way and went through much to get here, but becoming an Aussie was one of the happiest days of my life.” – Bao (refugee)

My own father (a Hungarian refugee), always felt this day was special too – and he reminded us that we were so lucky to live in such a democracy and to have the freedom we have, in this “land of possibilities”, as he put it.

It seems from my simple poll that there are indeed a plethora of views here and that in some ways it is divisive. Nevertheless, there are also many  who have come from other lands, who perhaps appreciate this day more than those born here. But I may be wrong.

What does Australia Day mean for you? Do you think we should change the date? What would you like to see happen on this day?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
15 Responses to
What does Australia Day mean to you?
1
Charlotte Harper 9:17 am
26 Jan 17
#

I agree with a RiotACT reader suggestion last year that we should have a minute’s silence on Australia Day in recognition of the fact that the British invaded the country on this day and subsequently decimated the population, culture and language of the first Australians. If this became a nationally recognised institution in itself, with appropriate fanfare, it would go a long way to turning sentiment towards the day as a whole around.

As for changing the date, the May 8 (maaate) idea is funny but wouldn’t work for two reasons: mothers all over the country would miss out on Mother’s Day every few years because of the clash, and we’d lose the positives of celebrating as a nation at the end of the summer holidays when we can host BBQs and spend a long weekend at the beach, by the pool or watching the tennis.

2
Suzanne Kiraly 9:25 am
26 Jan 17
#

Charlotte Harper said :

I agree with a RiotACT reader suggestion last year that we should have a minute’s silence on Australia Day in recognition of the fact that the British invaded the country on this day and subsequently decimated the population, culture and language of the first Australians. If this became a nationally recognised institution in itself, with appropriate fanfare, it would go a long way to turning sentiment towards the day as a whole around.

As for changing the date, the May 8 (maaate) idea is funny but wouldn’t work for two reasons: mothers all over the country would miss out on Mother’s Day every few years because of the clash, and we’d lose the positives of celebrating as a nation at the end of the summer holidays when we can host BBQs and spend a long weekend at the beach, by the pool or watching the tennis.

Yes, Charlotte – a minute’s silence – what a great idea. I would love for everyone to enjoy this day – all Australians having a celebration together, without the controversy that we have as it is today.

3
bikhet 11:29 am
26 Jan 17
#

I’d be happy to see the date of Australia Day changed as I’m not sure what the founding of the first colony has to do with Australia. Alternatively, NSW can retain a holiday on that date and rename it Colony Day, or NSW Day, or something. The rest of Australia can celebrate Federation or the founding of their own State or Territory whenever they like.

4
rommeldog56 1:36 pm
26 Jan 17
#

Personally I am pretty well fed up with the use of emotive terms such as “invasion day” and “genocide”. While we are at it, do we also need to apologise for and acknowledge that the appearance of modern man (homo sapians) helped to tip Neanderthals over the edge into extinction and took over those lands ?

If u move “Australia Day” to another date, these sorts of emotive claims from the left of politics will continue then too. Nothing will change. A whole lefty industry has evolved around the “invasion” and “genocide” labels and they will never, ever let it go I’m afraid.

Throwing labels like “invasion” and “genocide” around at any time, let alone on Australia Day, is itself highly divisive and inflammatory and IMHO, certainly does not does aid in reconciliation. But then again, if that did occur, what would the proponents of those labels do then ? What cause would they then “adopt” ?

5
rommeldog56 4:03 pm
26 Jan 17
#

Why can not we have a national Indigenous Day or week, separate from Australia Day, to celebrate Aboriginal culture and history ? To me, Indigenous culture and history, except the negative labels, seems to be lost in Australia Day celebrations.

6
Chris Mordd Richards 7:19 pm
26 Jan 17
#

Suzanne Kiraly said :

Charlotte Harper said :

I agree with a RiotACT reader suggestion last year that we should have a minute’s silence on Australia Day in recognition of the fact that the British invaded the country on this day and subsequently decimated the population, culture and language of the first Australians. If this became a nationally recognised institution in itself, with appropriate fanfare, it would go a long way to turning sentiment towards the day as a whole around.

As for changing the date, the May 8 (maaate) idea is funny but wouldn’t work for two reasons: mothers all over the country would miss out on Mother’s Day every few years because of the clash, and we’d lose the positives of celebrating as a nation at the end of the summer holidays when we can host BBQs and spend a long weekend at the beach, by the pool or watching the tennis.

Yes, Charlotte – a minute’s silence – what a great idea. I would love for everyone to enjoy this day – all Australians having a celebration together, without the controversy that we have as it is today.

First nation people’s cannot enjoy this day, because it is the day a war was declared on the 240+ nations of australia, and the war has never ended. Until a treaty is signed, this will not change, as was made clear at the Tent Embassy protest today. Until FNP can enjoy the day, I cannot enjoy the day, and many others feel the same way. A minutes of silence was observed at the tent embassy today, in recognition of all those killed by the invasion of their land and those killed by institutionalised racism ever since. Over 600 people attended the Sovereignty protest today, am editing footage and writing a report of it now.

7
Janos 12:15 am
27 Jan 17
#

Its a day to celebrate our achievements, have a bbq and a beer with your mates. Its a day off to remind us that we need to take a break and think how lucky we have it compared to some parts of the world. We made it this way, all of us, white, black, Asian…whatever.
In the meantime however, I’d like a minutes silence to remember my poor Briton ancestors murdered by Romans when they colonized Britain. While we’re at it, I’d like a minutes silence for the other side of the family who were no doubt terrified of Ghengis Khan and his gang of ruffians. Damn Mongols, and who needs an aqueduct anyway, big nosed Romans.

8
Pandy 5:34 am
27 Jan 17
#

Read this by an indigenous person:

https://www.facebook.com/JacintaPriceForCouncillor/posts/1799874823606889

Changing the date will do nothing, quoting from the Telegraph:

“If Australia Day was moved to January 1 – or any other alternative – would they rejoice? Would a simple change of date end their reflexive bitterness towards a celebration of Australian accomplishments? How these people would respond if the Australia Day celebration was changed. They would still reject Australia Day because they reject both the concept and reality of Australia. To them, Australia will always be a symbol of racism, colonialism and oppression. Changing the date would not make a scrap of difference. This is because they are utterly incapable of recognising what Australia has become – the most successfully and peacefully integrated nation on earth.”

And if you changed the date mate, then bet you to a bottom dollar the following holidays would be sought to be changed:

-Western Australia Day: the founding of the Swan River Colony (bad word Colony)?
-SA, Proclamation Day: the establishment of government in South Australia as a British (British another bad word) province.

And the people who say that Australia Day should only be celebrated on 1st January as it is the date of Federation, lets not forget something about history of “New Holland” and its exploration and annexation for alternative dates to mark when New Holland Terra Australia become one continent under the new rulers. so here are some alternative dates:??

29 September 1791, explorer Captain George Vancouver while exploring the south coast, entered and named King George the Third’s Sound and Princess Royal Harbour, and took possession of New Holland for the British Crown.?

21 January 1827, as instructed by the Colonial Secretary, the Union Jack was raised at Albany WA and a feu de joie fired by the troops, formally annexing the territory of New Holland, then not a part of New South Wales, in assertion of the first official claim by the Imperial Government to British possession over the whole continent of Australia. ??

I interested in making the national day a marking of Indigenous black history. We have Mabo Day, Sorry Day, Naidoc Week. Why don’t we agree to mark one of these days as a National Holiday?

9
Acton 8:47 am
27 Jan 17
#

Australia Day must be renamed as “Invasion and Genocide Day”. Better still it should be renamed as “Invasion and Genocide By White Middle Class Men Day”, so as not to offend women, people of non-English speaking background, the disabled, the descendants of mixed indigenous marriages and the LGBTQIAPD community in the guilt-fest.

One minute’s silence just won’t do. There are too many distractions around. Shopping malls. Updating Facebook. That last tweet. The next selfie. What that women over there is wearing, OMG it was like sooooo … you know…..

To show our genuine contrition and penitence on “Invasion and Genocide By White Middle Class Men Day”, there must be a national wailing procession and self-flagellation with chains and whips.

Anything less and we will demand another renamed day and date.

10
rommeldog56 9:27 am
27 Jan 17
#

Chris Mordd Richards said :

First nation people’s cannot enjoy this day, because it is the day a war was declared on the 240+ nations of australia, and the war has never ended. Until a treaty is signed, this will not change, as was made clear at the Tent Embassy protest today. Until FNP can enjoy the day, I cannot enjoy the day, and many others feel the same way. A minutes of silence was observed at the tent embassy today, in recognition of all those killed by the invasion of their land and those killed by institutionalised racism ever since. Over 600 people attended the Sovereignty protest today, am editing footage and writing a report of it now.

Instead of further inflaming things and attempting to further divide society, why don’t we put these efforts that involve looking back, to looking forward to help to close the gap in Indigenous education, health and employment. That would be much more constructive than white anting and rebel rousing – but also harder to do !

11
Rollersk8r 9:44 am
27 Jan 17
#

I’m sick and tired of the annual debate over changing the date. Go right ahead and change it – just to prove it will not make an iota of difference. The same old stuff will be dredged up the week before, then forgotten about for another year. This debate is whipped up by the media, especially the ABC. The focus should be on the fact we’re lucky enough to live in the most free and peaceful country in the world. But no, even among my perfectly white anglo Australian family and friends it’s become very cool, anti-authority and anti-government to make it about “invasion day”.

The common line is we’re celebrating genocide. No, nobody is celebrating this. Australians generally are not chest-beating patriots like Americans – but if anyone’s celebrating it’s because, again, we live in the most free and peaceful country on Earth.

Respect and recognition of indigenous people is at the absolute top of the list for any Australia Day event. From meetings at work, to school assemblies, to sporting events – all constantly recognise indigenous land and culture. Yet it is clear all of this does very little to appease those who want to rain on the Australia Day parade each year.

For once I mostly agree with Joe Hildebrand: http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/changing-the-date-of-australia-day-wont-change-our-past-says-joe-hildebrand/news-story/d9a6ecdff0c2a85a77d227dcc6f79ce8

12
gizmo1 11:41 am
27 Jan 17
#

A day to spend with mates & family. Pretty sure all Australians could get on board with that, regardless of colour or creed. If not, then Australia probably isn’t for you

13
John Moulis 5:15 pm
27 Jan 17
#

On the surface it sounds like a good idea to change the date, but the extreme left will simply hijack it again, rope Aborigines in and wreck the day with protests and discord. They just hate Australia, our values and way of life and the thought that people are having a good time so they see it as their sacred duty to grandstand in front of the cameras in order to make a statement no matter what day it is.

14
Suzanne Kiraly 12:28 pm
28 Jan 17
#

Wow! Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts on this. It’s certainly something people feel passionate about and there have been some good points raised here by many of you too. Interesting tongue-in-cheek response, Janos.

I think that most would like to enjoy this day (and largely do so) – I for one, would like to see more unified solutions, rather than this “us and them” divisiveness that seems to be all pervasive throughout the world right now.

15
Spiral 1:28 pm
28 Jan 17
#

To me Australia Day does mark the start of the country and culture we live in.

Of course no country or culture is perfect and all have things that they are ashamed of. But we also have many things to be proud of.

Without the First Fleet we probably would not have Australia as a nation. Certainly without European colonisation it is extremely unlikely that this continent would be a single nation. Instead it would probably be a patchwork of many smaller nations.

The legal and social systems we have here today are based on those we inherited from the British.

Two of the reasons Australia is so attractive to immigrants are our legal and social values. People who say that our colonial history is of no significance to new Australians are wrong.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au

Search across the site