I read with interest Starts at 60’s article on Scott Morrison blasting a local council for its decision to move its annual Australia Day celebrations. How hypocritical are those among us who attend Anzac Day and Remembrance Day and repeat the words ‘Lest We Forget’ but tell the Australian Aborigines ‘it was ages ago, drop it’ or something similar.
Why would Aboriginals forget what happened in the past to suit a White Australia agenda; a guilt-free Australia Day on January 26. If Australia Day celebrations remain on January 26 every year I feel the same controversy will exist. For many Aboriginal people the day represents the huge change in their lives, murder, rape and enslavement.
Another cry I hear is ‘it’s not the full bloods, it’s the almost white complaining’ and I feel that is understandable. A full-blood Aboriginal might know their tribe, their culture and live or have access to their traditional country. It’s those who identify as Aboriginal, but don’t know their background – many children of the stollen generation who may understandably struggle. The link was broken when their mother and/or father was stolen from their families and placed into homes; when they were often separated from their brothers and sisters. Some were too young to know what part of Australia they came from, or their tribe. I can understand these Aboriginals would be angry about the loss of their knowledge and their culture. Telling them to ‘go bush’ and ‘reconnect’ is a bit like telling a Frenchman to talk to an Italian about culture as they are both European. Much is similar, but a lot will be different.
Personally, I don’t really care if the date for Australia Day changes, but I think it is foolish to expect that opposition to January 26 will cease just because the prime minister or anybody else says it should. Keep January 26 and every year there will be controversy, trying to force everyone to hold a music countdown or an event on that day will drive people away, and those who object to Australia Day being celebrated on January 26 will stay away.
I find it amazing, too, the number of people who don’t really know what the day represents. I recall one politician recently, who incorrectly said it was when Captain James Cook came ashore. In fact, Australia Day is the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet in Australia. On that day in 1788, 11 convict ships from Great Britain landed at Port Jackson in New South Wales, where governor Arthur Philip raised the British flag to signal the beginning of the British colony. I feel most people just like the public holiday and have little interest in the what and why.
I am a South Australian and remember Proclamation Day, but have no memory of Australia Day ceremonies. I question how national our observance was until more recent years. I am sure in New South Wales,January 26 has always been important, but what about the other states? Did they not celebrate their foundation? After all, Australia was only declared a Federation on January 1, 1901. I wonder if this is the date we should celebrate Australia Day.
Let’s be honest, changing the date will not change history, the first fleet will still have arrived on that day. The celebration of Australia Day has been on many different dates, so its history with January 26 is not very long, barely 20 years, I believe.
As for a day to celebrate our indigenous people – as suggested by Prime Minister Morrison – I am not sure there is any point unless it is a public holiday. Surely a day in NAIDOC Week could be chosen rather than yet another day. The Indigenous people, however, would have to own the day and set meaningful activities that entertain and educate. Perhaps healing ceremonies and memorials could be erected on sites.
To me it’s simple, if you want a date that will never be supported by all Australians stick with January 26, if you want a date everyone will celebrate, find another date.