The debate about whether Australia Day is a day of national celebration or a day of dispossession is raging, as the push for a change of date build steam in the lead up to January 26.
The Greens have pledged support for a change in date of Australia’s national public holiday, with party leader Richard Di Natale declaring in a Nine News report that “it’s a day that represents an act of dispossession, an act of theft.”
“It’s a day that [represents] the beginning of an ongoing genocide,” he said, adding that Australia needed to be honest about its history and “the ‘mass slaughter’ and ‘genocide’ that marked the early years of European settlement.”
Senator Di Natale went on to say that at the moment, it’s a day that divides the nation – and there is an “opportunity to being Australia together” by celebrating Australia Day on a different date.
Victorian Greens MP, Lidia Thorpe, is particularly keen to ditch the public holiday, calling for flags to be flown at half-mast across the state on Australia Day.
Thorpe, the first Aboriginal woman in Victoria’s parliament, told the Herald Sun “Australia Day celebrations were akin to dancing on the graves of her ancestors.”
“We can’t celebrate a day that marks a day of invasion, a day of mourning,” Thorpe said.
“This country needs to own the truth of what’s happened to its first people. We need to own that we were invaded and atrocities occurred.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused the Greens of being “politically correct”, tweeting his support for keeping the January 26 date.
There are 364 other days a year for the Greens to be politically correct. Why can’t they just accept that Jan 26 is the best available day to celebrate all that’s good about life in Australia.
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) January 15, 2018
Former Labor Leader Mark Latham also penned an article in the Daily Telegraph, about why Australia Day should be left alone.
“January 26 is the only logical date for marking Australia Day. It has been celebrated every year since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, initially as Foundation Day and then a public holiday under Governor Macquarie in 1818 (its 30th anniversary),” Latham wrote.
“It came of age in modern Australia when it was the focus for our Bicentennial celebrations in 1988. Like Anzac Day, it has gathered strength and numbers over the past decade.
“In a world of change and uncertainty, people look forward to these special national days, when we can feel unambiguously proud to be Australian.”
However the Australia Day debate pans out, it is sure to continue to generate much debate amongst politicians and Australians alike.
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