Debate over Woolworth’s ‘woke’ Australia Day move intensifies as new voices enter the fray

Jan 12, 2024
Beyond the initial public outrage, politicians and rival retailers have now entered the fray, playing significant roles in shaping the narrative. Source: Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS.

In the aftermath of Woolworths’ decision to no longer offer Australia Day-themed merchandise, the controversy has reached a fever pitch, with an array of new voices entering the conversation and stoking the flames of an already heated debate.

Retail giant Woolworths found itself at the centre of controversy recently when they revealed to that they would not be offering items specific to Australia Day in 2024.

“While Australian flags are sold within BIG W all year round, we don’t have any additional themed merchandise available to purchase in-store in our Supermarkets or BIG W ahead of Australia Day,” a Woolworths Group spokesperson said.

“There has been a gradual decline in demand for Australia Day merchandise from our stores over recent years. At the same time there’s been broader discussion about 26 January and what it means to different parts of the community.

“We know many people like to use this day as a time to get together and we offer a huge variety of products to help customers mark the day as they choose.

“Woolworths and BIG W celebrate the best of Australia every day, and we’re proud to support the farmers, producers, and suppliers who work with us.”

The announcement triggered a wave of reactions from the public, with sentiments ranging from frustration to outright anger across the social media landscape.

Beyond the initial public outrage, politicians and rival retailers have now entered the fray, playing significant roles in shaping the narrative.

Following Woolworth’s announcement, Coles affirmed its commitment to adorning its shelves with Australia Day merchandise.

“We are stocking a small range of Australian-themed summer entertaining merchandise throughout January which is popular with our customers for sporting events such as the cricket and tennis, as well as for the Australia Day weekend,” they said in a statement.

Even political figures have shared their insights on the issue with Opposition leader Peter Dutton labelling the supermarket’s decision “an outrage”.

“For Woolworths to start taking political positions to oppose Australia Day is against the national interest, the national spirit,”  he told 2GB on Thursday, January 11.

“If (customers) don’t want to celebrate Australia Day, well that’s a decision for them.

“Until we get common sense out of a company like Woolworths, I don’t think they should be supported by the public.”

As various voices contribute their perspectives, the discourse surrounding the contentious nature of Australia Day continues to intensify. With a growing call to reconsider January 26, acknowledging its historical implications for Indigenous Australians, many argue against celebrating the day.

Though the date remains unchanged, more councils and state governments are reevaluating traditional Australia Day activities, such as cancelling citizenship ceremonies.

Despite Woolworths holding its ground, the public debate on Australia Day is continuing to gain momentum, hinting at a larger pattern that questions the conventional norms associated with the national day.

-with AAP.

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