Millions of Aussies will enjoy a day off with a barbeque or a trip to the beach this Australia Day but growing uneasiness around the commemoration of the beginning of British colonisation has prompted one breakfast show host to call on the Prime Minister to make a decision on the future of the public holiday.
Sunrise host Nat Barr did not mince her words recently when she said Australians must be tired of tiptoeing around and feeling embarrassed about celebrating Australia Day.
The public holiday, which is celebrated on January 26, recognises the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, and the beginning of British colonial rule. However observing the historical moment is fast becoming a controversial subject as it also represents the dispossession, suffering, and cultural disruption for Indigenous Australians.
There have been calls to change the date or find other ways to celebrate Australia’s diverse history which reflect the celebration’s ongoing complexities. Given the ambiguity and the need for a national conversation that addresses the country’s holistic history, Barr’s views were that leadership from the top was needed to find a way out of the current grey area.
Speaking to Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt yesterday, Barr asked, “Do you think most Australians are getting sick of this tiptoeing around Australia Day, and there should be some leadership from the top so that we don’t have to all sort of be embarrassed about what we’re doing on that day?”
But Watt was quick to defend the prime minister saying, “I don’t see the Prime Minister being the one who’s getting out there leading some sort of debate about Australia Day.”
Unrelenting, Barr pushed the issue suggesting there should be a discussion around Australia Day ambiguity.
Watt responded by saying that in a democracy people are entitled to their views however raised concern over how this is done and slammed opposition leader Peter Dutton for calling for a boycott on Woolworths and Big W who recently announced they would no longer stock Australia Day merchandise due to lack of demand.
“But what I don’t think is right is what we saw from Peter Dutton a week or so ago talking about using Australia Day to boycott a supermarket,” Watt said.
“We are much more focused on things like the war on inflation rather than culture wars and whether supermarkets sell the right kind of thongs. I think that’s what most Australia want the government focused on.”
These comments follow an announcement from Cricket Australia to say they would not be using the term “Australia Day” when covering Friday’s test match against the West Indies.
Similarly, Australian Open organisers will avoid commemorating the day for the second year running.
NSW Premier Chris Minns weighed in on the matter during an interview with 2GB describing the move as “extremely strange” and encouraging the sporting bodies to reassess these decisions.
“They should mention it,” he told Ben Fordham on Monday morning.
“This is a day for us all to celebrate with your family and friends, recognise that we live in the greatest country on Earth. I definitely will be doing that.”
Senator Watt recognised Cricket Australia’s decision but reiterated that there were no plans to change the date of Australia Day. The senator acknowledged the different perspectives regarding Australia Day but plans to enjoy his day off and expects Albo will do the same.
“I’ll be celebrating Australia Day myself on Thursday at a citizenship ceremony and probably a barbie after that,” he said.
“I know the Prime Minister is planning to celebrate Australia Day, but we respect the fact that different people have got different views about this.”