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‘Australia Day’ proves how misguided we are in understanding who holds the power

By Shane Primrose

‘Australia Day’ proves how misguided we are in understanding who holds the power… 
If you’re a little like me, you didn’t celebrate Australia Day yesterday. Perhaps, instead you spent some time wandering around your house, listening to the bass of someone’s stereo rattle through your walls as you responded to text messages from your friends, letting them know that they shouldn’t expect to see you at their party today.

Maybe you stepped out for a coffee at your favourite store with a good book in hand; Politely responded to friendly strangers with a smile when they wished you “Happy Australia Day!” or asked “Hey bro, You gettin’ on it today?” 

Or perhaps, you did celebrate today.

But it didn’t feel quite right. Did it? 

Before we continue any further here, I have two exercises I would like you to complete right now; First, imagine there was a time when your ancestors were stripped of everything they knew. Their lands and their children were stolen from them. They watched on as friends and families were – amongst other unspeakable acts – murdered. Take a moment to close your eyes and consider this.

Feel free to come back to reality when you can no longer bear this mental image. This is a dark thing to consider I know. An image that makes you feel sick to your stomach. These thoughts are a reality for our Indigenous population. The mourning I’d imagine is never more prominent than on the 26th of January.

 Secondly, please consider an issue that you are passionate about. Perhaps you are one who strongly values marriage equality, protection against domestic violence or the rights of refugees. All prominent issues right now and all are gaining traction and respect – thankfully.

Now, I’d like you to take that issue that holds so much passion for you and imagine this:

There is now a national day that completely dismisses your issue. Your nation binds together on this day and tells you that you are a minority. Nobody cares about your issue and you should “Get over it!” Think about it. 

So, you mad bro? Yes? Well, so are the first people of this nation. Now that you understand why, we can move forward.

As many of us do around this time of year, I found myself in a discussion with some friends, about whether Australia Day should be celebrated on the 26th of January – The day that marks the First Fleet’s arrival in Port Jackson. Subsequently, of course marking the destruction of much of our indigenous culture.  I was intrigued to see how misguided we can be in understanding how much power we have as consumers with regards to this issue.

One friend commented, “I know it’s a big issue, and I know it’s not right, but it’s just never going to change. If it does it will take years and years. There is nothing we can do about it now.” 

“Really, nothing?” I thought. “Surely it wouldn’t take years to change. It would simply take action.”

Please my friends, let me make one thing clear for you. We have enormous power as consumers. Far more than some people would like you to know.

While you think of Australia Day, you may picture yourselves having a cracking day with your friends, some good food, good music and a bit of backyard cricket thrown in for a laugh. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s fantastic.

As I’ve been reminded today, I’ve been to plenty of these Aussie shindigs myself in the past. But this isn’t the way some large corporations see Australia Day, despite them trying to make you to believe it is so through their clever advertising.

Corporations simply see this day as another cash cow. ‘Australia Day’ is a means to keep the money rolling in. Similarly, your government sees it as a boost to the economy. The money is in motion, people are employed. The system works. 

As long as the system works, for so long as people are compliant, continue to spend money, and celebrate our great nation on a day that is dismissive not only of our indigenous culture, but also much of our migrant history, we will be continuing to embarrass ourselves every year. We do this through publicly displaying our lack of compassion and inability to realise the importance of celebrating our great nation on a day that is inclusive of all Australians.

Three things I believe I believe that all people are inherently good. I believe that most people would like to celebrate our nation on a day that is inclusive of all Australians; But they don’t believe they have the power to change this. I believe these people are wrong in thinking they lack power to create change. 
Please understand, we will have an inclusive national day as soon as we choose to make it so. 

The solution is simple; And the beautiful part is we don’t need to boycott Australia Day. Far from it. Live it up! We’re from the greatest nation on Earth! It’s a beautiful thing to have a day to reflect on all that makes this country great…

We just need to do it on a different day.

Really, any other day.

 Understand that when we collectively exercise our free choice and celebrate this nation on another day, we will force large corporations and our Government to respond. If we stop taking the media and advertising bait, if we stop telling ourselves “It’s wrong, but what can we do?” we will no longer find ourselves having to celebrate our nation on a day of mourning for our Indigenous population, as it will no longer be a profitable vehicle.

Our Government will then take action and rectify an issue that has long been Australia’s shame. We as consumers hold the power to dictate action through our purchases. Every time we make a purchase we are voting; Every vote counts. The year that the votes are tallied and the realization sets in that Australians are no longer willing to celebrate the successes of the nation on a day that marks the beginning of a genocide and a day of mourning for our first people, will be the day that there will be change.

This will be a beautiful day. The first ‘True Australia Day.’ Who holds the power to celebrate Australia on #anyotherday? We do.

Shane Primrose

Shane is the founder of GoodFootball.com.au a social enterprise that donates one football to support children in need for every football sold. He is also a high school teacher, specialising in Physical Education, Science and Mathematics. Passionate about both social and environmental issues, he strives to be a part of change through education and philanthropy.

It may have been Sky’High who made this point to the greatest effect when she rapped “Only way to move on is to get along. Better not get it wrong, cause after all, aren’t we all one under the sun?” in The Herd’s cover of Change Gonna Come.

12 comments

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  1. diannaart

    Thank you Shane.

    The fact that the 26th January was selected as Australia Day says it all – the most generous interpretation would be that This Day British settlement began in NSW, therefore, This Day may have some meaning for a select few.

    Whereas, for the rest of the peoples of Australia, This Day holds little relevance whatsoever.

    My personal view is that This Day feels like a slap, an insult, a government sanctioned “up yours”.

  2. RosemaryJ36

    Can we all agree on a day when no one will go to work and everyone will celebrate an inclusive Australia Day? Forget gazetting it. Use people power!

  3. etruiteI

    Woolies Day part of Coles fortnight

  4. John Kelly

    I’d like to add another scenario. Imagine that Japan were the victors in the Pacific War in 1945 (the year I was born). After our surrender, they made Australia a Japanese protectorate. In addition to “taking care of us” they undertook a massive relocation of several million Japanese to live here. Over the ensuing years we became a great industrial nation as well as a principal supplier of the world’s raw materials and the world’s food. We also developed a nuclear weapons capacity. Our population grew to 50 million, predominately of Asian descent. They even tried to eradicate Caucasians by encouraging inter racial marriage. Every year on 6th August we celebrated Japan Victory Day with street marches, parties, picnics and firecrackers. As a Caucasian Australian, who lost a relative in WW2 how would you feel about that? Would you celebrate? Or, would you feel as if your heritage and unique culture had been destroyed quite deliberately. Would you feel marginalised?

  5. Sean

    When we become a republic(hopefully sooner rather than later) we can call that day Australia Day and those of us who think a bit deeper than your average bogan can reflect on what a great country we live in. The bogans can still get pissed and drape themselves in the flag and chant Straya mate.
    January 26th should still remain a day of significance, but not for the reason it currently does. A National Sorry day perhaps?

  6. Pudden'head

    Of course Australia Day,January 26th,evokes different recall and for the original people of this continent it is Invasion Day; for my wife and me it is wedding anniversary day. There may be other reasons to put out on the 26th of Jan but might I suggest that the move to transfer the “celebration” to another day to placate indigenous feelings would only provide fuel for protest from the moronic right wing elements abroad in this country who had previously embraced John Howard’s opinion that any sympathetic examination of past depredations against the original inhabitants would fall to the “black arm-band” category as all show and unnecessary. In keeping the 26th, those who want to advance the lot of our indigenous have a ready made occasion on which to put forward their ideas. If the 26th is dismissed the Right Wing John Howard lot could possibly have a field day. Brave citizens have stumbled on lesser contradictions and choices.

  7. diannaart

    Well lets not upset the “moronic right” then.

  8. Sean

    Really Pudden’head???

    Are you that worried about upsetting the morons from groups like Reclaim Australia etc… The more we upset bogans like them the more the average Australian can see them for what they are – redneck, racist, knuckle dragging, inward looking simpletons with nothing coherent to say except Straya Straya Straya oi oi oi!!!!!!!

  9. Pudden'head

    Sean, The answer to your question is no. What I was trying to examine was possible advantages to be gained by using the day to present thoughts on the circumstances of indigenous folk.The very moment when Australians are congratulating themselves on their life in this beautiful country may be the best time to remind them that there are other folk who have been disadvantaged and continue to be so by the actions of the non indigenous of the same beautiful country. The path resulting from the co-incidence of “Invasion Day” & Australia Day,if lost, may at a less favorable time make it harder to raise emphasis on the damage done by the invasion and its subsequent effects. I might have put it together poorly but what I was after was not subservience to the moronic elements Rather,I sought the appropriateness of the time for putting the facts to them and anyone else in this country.

  10. Kerry

    I can see that for most of the above, anyone who disagrees with your (perhaps leftist?) point of view must be a moron – obviously!!! Although my uncle was killed by the Turks at Gallipoli, I felt no animosity to them on a recent visit to Istanbul. Similarly, my Dad fought the Japs in New Guinea and his other brother was killed by them in Malaya in WWII. Like many we realise those days are over and although we remember these men’s sacrifice with pride we have moved on, unlike the Middle East that carry their hatred for thousands of years. My ancestor (woman) came here on the second fleet on the ‘Neptune’. If you look it up you will see about 300+ WHITE people died on that journey and the rest barely alive when they landed – most committed minor crimes that today would warrant a slap on the wrist – they did NOT invade Australia, get that through your skull. My family will still be celebrating Australia Day every year. It’s a great country here and we are sick of people who take the welfare and benefits and stab their country in the back. Enough said!!

  11. Pudden'head

    Kerry I have 5 convicts in my lineage most of whom were exiled for petty thefts. One (my paternal great grandfather) is said to have attacked English authority in Ireland.He served his time and was an early settler in Melbourne in 1837. His sons, one of whom was my grandfather became pastoral workers in the north west of NSW. My Grand was in the north west in the 1850’s and in 1865 was joined by an Irish girl and between them they drove herds of cattle between the Castlereagh and the Bogan Rivers. In 1870 three of their children died at Wingadee Station of pneumonia during a time of extremely wet conditions. My grandfather always acknowledged the help he had been given by the aboriginal people in the area he worked stock. My Dad said his father insisted on his children being polite and helpful to aboriginal people in acknowledgment of their assistance to he and his family. My Dad believed that family would not have survived many
    seasons without the aboriginal’s tolerance and help when it was needed. I could go on as I had three brothers in New Guinea and other theatres of war during WW2, a nephew in the Korean fracas and I have a desire to see our indigenous people treated more kindly than they have been. I am sorry that you are offended by the use of the term moronic.I used it because I was offended by John Howard’s attitude during a time referred to as the history wars.I could have used the term unthinking and will be more careful in the future. Rest assured that I do not always see people as morons because they hold views opposite to mine.
    Before I finish I need to point out that the British did in fact invade Australia (or as they named it, New South Wales). The convicts that they dragged along with them were not at all invader types and would have preferred to have stayed in England, Ireland and Scotland rather than be at the end of the then known world. The trained soldiers and sailors that arrived with them had different ideas.
    .

  12. pappinbarafox

    Your exercise in paragraph 3 was interesting. In fact it did happen to my ancestors following 1066 and all that. I wonder what period of time has to pass before I stop holding a grudge against the French? But otherwise I agree – jingoistic shenanigans are not my cup of chai. Flag waving? Bah! But if we did have to have a National Day perhaps the day Australia was declared a country? Although that was done through a British Act of Parliament so maybe not? I spose I would prefer to be called a citizen of the world rather than just one country.

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