JANUARY 26 – what should we make of you?

January 26 is Australia Day.

A day of celebration and pride. A day we can stand up and say we love being an Aussie. A day to adorn flags as capes and parade around with matching accessories such as hats, thongs, swimmers, shirts, jewellery. At the traditional BBQ display Aussie cups, plates, serviettes, aprons……you name it. If it has the Australian flag on it, you can guarantee it will be out for all to see.

Aussie pride as strong as ever.

There is so much significance in a date.

If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Easter, the Queens Birthday, New Year’s Eve, or any other event which holds meaning. If there wasn’t importance in a date, we wouldn’t have ANZAC day or Day of Remembrance when WWII ended. There wouldn’t be a moment’s silence for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy (although in America, Aussies also died in it).

Australia Day is the day Captain Cook landed in Australia and claimed it for England. A historic day. A day to be proud of. A day to recognise and honour. The beginning of the greatest nation on Earth. And we want to declare it. Loudly.

January 26 also represents great sadness and mourning. A day of tragedy. A day that’s suggested we stop and acknowledge, reflect upon what happened, and resolve never to repeat our ancestor’s mistakes. A day on which many Aborigines were called “savages” and slaughtered.

Fear. A justified reason for killing, don’t you think? No, not really. The same sort of thing is happening in Papua New Guinea by the Indonesians as we speak. We label that genocide and we are appalled, horrified and feel physically sick about it.

January 26 represents both the light and the dark of Australian history.

So, what do we do about this? The argument has been going on for about 90 years!

Declared not to be human, the Aborigines were hidden. They were scum. They weren’t fit to have children or raise them. We have treated them as if they don’t exist. However, I’m going to put all that aside though. Not because it isn’t worthy to be addressed, but because I want to concentrate solely on Australia Day being on January 26. Why should it stay the same? Or, why should it change? And conclude with my personal opinion after having read many stories from both sides. To bring up all the other stuff, though valid, and a direct result of England’s claim upon the land, we take away the focus of what we are truly talking about.

And that is the significance of January 26 – the root cause for all the fuss.

It is the day of both life and death. A nation was born and a nation died. People were allowed to thrive and people were allowed to die. Homes were built and homes were destroyed. One nation with advanced weapons and the other with ancient weapons.

An unofficial war.

God’s image against God’s image.

One comment I read in defence of keeping the date, stated we acknowledge Aborigines at other times, eg Naidoc Week, and Sorry Day. They then declare their stance on what Australia Day is all about….

“……..this country acknowledges aboriginal heritage more per year than it does it’s European heritage. We have Nidac week sorry day and other events and days not to mention indigenous rounds in almost all sports…….AUSTRALIA DAY is to celebrate everyone that has contributed to this amazing country and to acknowledge the day Europeans decide to settle permanently.”

I agree and acknowledge that Australia is doing these things in order to bridge the relationship between present day Aborigines and Aussies, to validate them. These are extremely important. This person’s opinion is echoed by thousands of others. There’s nothing wrong with Aussie pride and wanting to celebrate it. That’s the whole point of January 26. It’s the day England settled here. The day Australia was born.

On news.com, an article of interesting reading, The Simple Reason We Shouldn’t Change The Date, acknowledges the arrival of the First Fleet was not glamourous, with the author, Malcolm Farr, indicating that it shouldn’t be the reason why we keep the date to January 26……

“JANUARY 26 should continue to be kept as our national day but not because those First Fleet ships landed essential cultural cargo…. They brought the worst elements of an empire ….The prime, simple reason for Australia Day staying put is that most Australians want it that way so they can salute their nation….Just over 26 per cent of our 24 million Australians were born overseas and many were granted their citizenship on January 26.”

On the website, theguardian.com, an article, Australia Day Row: minister says no ‘reasonable’ case for changing the date, notes the reasoning of one politician, Alex Hawke, who says there’s no reasonable evidence for a change..

Alex Hawke, Assistant Immigration Minister, The Guardian

“The assistant immigration minister, Alex Hawke, says he has not heard a “reasonable argument” to support changing the date of Australia Day saying the national day should not be moved “just because we have some elements of our history that we’re not proud of”.”


A comment I read on a FB post relating to change the date, indicated January 1 being an important day in Australian history…..

“1st of January makes most sense. As well just noted it’s the day Australia Federated…There’s an air of optimism in having a national holiday on such a day that I quite like.”

A double celebration maybe?? Two public holidays in a row?? What Aussie doesn’t like a good public holiday?

There’s also been a campaign for some time in changing the date to May 8 (Maaaate). The point they make is it is Australian comradeship to refer to everyone as mate, and so is fitting for our culture. The campaigners state on their website, may8.com.au, May 8 allows for all Aussies to be feel included in the celebrations. The only downfall is this date has no significance on which to reinforce its importance. Their home page (which appears to be their only page) declares…..

“….We believe that there are many days Australia’s greatness can be celebrated and we are proposing May 8 because giving consideration to all Australians, and all the history of Australia will make Australia Day more inclusive, and Australia a greater Nation for it. Being a Mate crosses cultural, community, religious and racial barriers…”

On indigenousx.com.au, a compelling read is, Luke Pearson: Maybe we shouldn’t change the date of Australia Day after all. The author writes, from my perception, in a way that is neither for or against a date change. I get the impression, though, he would like to see it changed, but he simply poses the question, maybe it shouldn’t be. Luke appears to not be bothered when Australia Day is celebrated because it changes nothing either way….

…..there are two standard negative responses.…..whenever people mention why many Indigenous people want to change the date is that it won’t fix anything..…Changing the date of Australia Day is a bit like joining a gym. Doing it won’t make you lose weight….Australia seems to think that having a lot of people from other cultures here automatically makes us multicultural. It doesn’t.….. You cannot say that Australia day embraces all Australians while simultaneously saying that people who think the date should change are unpatriotic by “turning their backs on Australian values”….. Wanting to change the date of Australia Day, and the way the day itself operates to actively shape our national identity, is not unAustralian……if we do change the date, then we still have to follow through with the more substantial changes….. We already have too many empty gestures and broken promises…”

An article about the “for and against” date change was written by Ben Westcott, The Arguments For And Against Australia Day On January 26, on website edition.cnn.com……

Cook is often credited as the first European to discover Australia….Every year Australia Day, held on January 26, is the focus of huge controversy and debate…..While many Australians see it as a chance to celebrate the country’s lifestyle, culture and achievements, typically through barbeques and public events, the date is not a happy one for Australia’s Indigenous people….. On the 26th of January 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Sydney Cove…

During my research, I discovered there have a number of different dates suggested which have significance to Australian history. I’d only ever heard of May 8. Until I read the comments on that FB post, I didn’t know about January 1. Maybe you don’t know about them either. I discovered them listed on abc.net.au, Australia Day: If we were to change the date, these are some of our options, and it was interesting to read. Besides May 8….

January 1st…..this is the day in 1901, Queen Victoria signed the document declaring Australia a self-governing federation.
January 28th…..keeps Australia Day in January.
March 12th…..it’s when Canberra received its name, and became the ACT.
May 9th…..1927 Government moved to Canberra; 1988 Parliament House was opened.
May 27th….The beginning of Reconciliation Week; 1967 Indigenous Australians were finally included in the census via a referendum which resulted in a staggering 91% of Aussies in favour.
May 30th…..1915 The first Australia Day was celebrated.

MY OPINION

We each have our opinions as to whether we support a date change or not. We are strong in our stance no matter which side of the fence we stand on. The one thing we can all agree upon is that we are proud to be Australian.

I believe ALL Australians should feel included in the celebrations of Australia Day. If Indigenous Australians don’t feel included because the day is clouded by tragedy for them due to England settling here, even if they make up 1% (or less), that’s 1% of Australians who aren’t included in the claim “Australia Day is for everyone”. We need to be honest and true by that statement by resolving it.

In all the discussions for and against a date change, the commonality is the significance of the date it’s celebrated on. January 26 holds significance due to us settling here. That’s the main one. All the other reasons can be celebrated on any one of the other dates. —

So, dates DO matter.

If they don’t, let’s consider Australia Day on the day of the Port Arthur massacre and see how popular that is. It’s the same thing – celebrating pride on a day of tragedy. That is what the argument would be about and rightly so. Not in good taste, is it? 

I support the change because it’s how you TRULY show people love and acceptance – through action. Let me pose a question: all the other acknowledgements during the year, are they out of love, or to shut them up for moments like this?

Before making myself informed with the why’s for both sides of the coin, I was against a date change for the same reasons everyone else is against it. As I learnt more about the history of January 26, the more I realised it’s not right.

After that, I was all for May 8 because it’s true, we are “mates” and is common to hear people yell out “maaaate!” to their mates. Makes some sense. It ignited excitement in me.

Now? I’m leaning towards May 27. Not because it’s the day before my birthday (though that would be awesome!!!), but because that is the day Indigenous Australians were finally included in the census – a day that finally acknowledged EVERYONE as Australian citizens. That was a massive step forward. It’s a day where that’s truly and wholeheartedly for ALL Australians.

If Australia Day is about all Australians, then let’s show ALL Australians it’s about ALL of them.

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2 thoughts on “JANUARY 26 – what should we make of you?

    • Thank you, Lynny. You’re right, it probably will. Common sense should prevail but people hate change. It’s been a tough fight so far, but with all the education of the history of January 26, awareness growing all the time, it will eventually reach a point where it can’t be dismissed as not as important as Aussie pride anymore.

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