As debate continues to grow around Australia Day and whether the date should be changed, a new survey has revealed more than one third of Australians don’t know why festivities are held on January 26.
The survey, conducted by The Australia Institute, quizzed 1,417 Australians about their views on Australia Day and their knowledge surrounding the national holiday. According to the research, most respondents couldn’t name the historical event that occurred on Australia Day.
Whether millennials are to blame or a lack of available information, many would argue that not knowing the historical events that occurred on January 26, proves the sorry state we are in as a nation.
The survey suggests 84 per cent of Australians believe it’s important to celebrate the nation with a national day of commemoration and celebration, but just 56 per cent of people don’t particularly mind which day the festivities are held.
It also found that 77 per cent of people were incorrect by stating that Australia Day had always been held on January 26, and just 38 per cent correctly explained that the day marks the anniversary of the First Fleet landing at Sydney Cove.
A social movement to change the date of Australia Day has gripped the country in recent years, with supporters arguing January 26, is disrespectful to Indigenous Australians, given the horrific treatment many were subjected to under British colonisation.
“The polling shows that most Australians don’t know what historical event Australia Day commemorates and most people are not aware it wasn’t always celebrated on this date,” Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute said. “Perhaps that’s why more than half of Australians say they don’t really mind when we hold Australia Day, as long as we do.”
Bennett added that most Aussies are laid back when it comes to the specific date, but are more concerned that we celebrate it at some point. “When asked to choose which date Australia Day should be celebrated on, less than a quarter (23 per cent) chose the current date from a range of options,” she said.
Just 49 per cent of respondents believed the day shouldn’t be held on a date that is offensive to Indigenous people, while 36 per cent believed it shouldn’t matter. Interestingly, 37 per cent of people suggested that January 26 is an offensive date, while 46 per cent didn’t believe that there was anything harmful or wrong about the current date.
Bennett added that the confusion around the date and the historical events that happened should encourage more Australians to learn about the history of the country. “The national conversation about Australia Day is an opportunity for all of us to learn about and reflect on Australia’s history,” she said. “Especially the more than fifty thousand years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, and to ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be in the future.”
The date has gained a lot of media coverage recently, with people on both sides of the debate arguing their point. Mark Latham, one of the most vocal advocates of keeping the date as it is, has released a series of frightening ads that predict what would happen to Australia if the date is moved. One commercial shows a little girl giving her mum a ‘Happy Australia Day’ card, only to have it thrown in the bin because it isn’t politically correct to celebrate the date.
On the other hand, Triple J caused controversy when they moved their Hottest 100 countdown, one of the largest music polls in the world, to respect those who are offended by the current date. An array of celebrities and public figures including Karl Stefanovic have called for the day to be cancelled.
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