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Australia Day 2020 … Boycott!

On Australia Day 2020 I intend to sit that one out, preferably out in the bush somewhere, as far away from the flag-waving and nationalistic hype as I can possibly get. I find the whole charade sickening.

It is not that I have anything against the existence of an Australia Day as such. A stipulated day where we celebrate who we are as a people, celebrate our national hero types, and celebrate our collective achievements in art, science, social progressiveness (there must be some), and industry. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a worthy enough pursuit. But that is not the sort of Australia Day we currently have.

Firstly, the chosen date has insensitivity written all over it, and secondly, it has become a day where the behaviour of Ugly Nationalistic Australia is given permission to reign free. Neither of the two are worth celebrating or being around.

It might help if we developed a greater understanding of the history of the months of January/February 1788 and got the actual date of so-called settlement right.

On 26th January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip landed in Port Jackson, along with a small crew of marines and oarsmen, and apparently took possession of everything he could see in the name of King George III of England. Perhaps we will grow up as a nation one day and no longer do it, but 231 years later we are still tugging the convict forelock in the direction of those English Monarchs.

But back to Phillip … it all sounds such a stirring landing event but most flag-wavers forget, or have never even bothered to find out, that the actual proclamation ceremony for the formal establishment of the colony of New South Wales, and the investiture of Arthur Phillip as first Governor, did not occur until 7th February 1788.

Before 7th February 1788, Phillip was far too busy protecting the female convicts who had recently been disembarked off the ship Lady Penrhyn from the rum-sodden predations of the male marines and convicts to have any time to formally declare or grab anything in the name of anybody.

And what was it that he formally established on 7th February 1788? He established a penal colony. He established a prison. In some ways, depending on how you look at things, Phillip quite unknowingly to be absolutely fair to him, established the Australian prototype for Manus.

So … on Australia Day we celebrate the formal opening of a prison, and we can’t even get the date right.

Before any sensitive folk tell me to go back to where I came from, I’m a sixth-generation Australian whose ancestors were boat people who got a free ride to the prison of New South Wales because they stole from the wealthy in England in order not to starve. As a progeny of convicts, I’m not inclined to celebrate Australian Prison Day on either the 26th of January or the 7th of February … why on earth would I?

(You cannot make origin statements like that these days without scrutiny, whether you want to get into Parliament or not, so for fact-checker types see the notes after this article.)

Many conservative fear-mongers say that 26th January has always been the date for Australia Day and that it should remain unchanged otherwise the world as we know it will belly-up tomorrow. What a load of nonsense. Prior to 1935, each state celebrated the foundation of the Prison on a different day, and it was only in 1935 that they all agreed to crank up the BBQ on the same agreed date. There are hundreds of other days Australia Day can be celebrated on.

Meanwhile …
Meanwhile …
Meanwhile …
While all the drinks slide down and the nationalistic self-congratulation gushes forth …

Thrust into the background of the celebrations that we currently observe on the 26th of January is an entire culture of human beings, the Aboriginal custodians and owners of this land, who may have a thought or two about what they see paraded before their eyes. And what do they see each and every Australia Day?

They see, on the anniversary of the day Phillip stuck his foot on the shore of Port Jackson, the modern beneficiaries of that invasion of Australia, and that happens to be some of us, swilling beer and waving flags in memory of the day when the rapes, and the poisonings, and the massacres, and the stealing of land, and the dismemberment of a culture, began. They see the dark truth of our own history promoted up as a moment worthy of celebration.

The 26th of January is not a day of national celebration, it is a symbolic day of the memory of a national ugliness that started on that date.

To further compound the supremely insensitive error of judgement that the choosing of the date 26th January was, we still persist in refusing recognition and a voice to the very human beings whose culture and people were raped, poisoned, massacred and desiccated. We throw the hopes of Indigenous people back into their faces, and we walk all over our own much-touted Australian principles of egalitarianism, fairness, and humanity, as the drinks slide down and the self-congratulation gushes forth.

Many people say that oh you cannot say this, or you cannot say that. The problem with modern Australia is that the wrong sort of powerful voices are out there being heard in the political and media spheres, and that not enough of us are prepared to stand up and oppose them with courage.

I oppose the current iteration of Australia Day for a number of reasons given above. And here’s another one. I mention it to simply illustrate a point.

As a Survivor of child abuse, I can assure you that I do not get out there on a particular day and celebrate the anniversaries of those horrific deeds, and I am deadly bloody sure that you would understand why I would not want to do that.

My experiences inform my thinking. So I do find it beyond belief that we as a whole nation get out there on a particularly insensitive day and celebrate what was clearly the beginning of the attempted destruction of an entire Aboriginal people and their culture.

I’m not against the idea of an Australia Day. I’m against the date it is held on.

The date for celebrating Australia Day in 2020 should be changed. If not, I’m borrowing a line from a Jethro Tull song and sitting that one out, I’m boycotting it, and I’m heading for the bush.

Mary Geer (1789-1851) arrived on the William Pitt in 1806. She was sentenced to hang for pilfering but the sentence was changed to transportation for life.

William Davis (1780 -). William was convicted of burglary and sentenced to death by hanging, but this was commuted to transportation for life. He arrived in Sydney Cove in 1800 on the Royal Admiral.

There seems to be a bit of a correlation between the treatment of the poor in England in the 1780s and the treatment of the poor and the disadvantaged in Australia in 2019. If both of my ancestors were alive in modern Australia I’m absolutely convinced that they’d be front line activists for the raising of Newstart.


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  1. James Mason

    Well presented sentiments Keith .. and I’m with you on all counts ..
    Will copy this article for use next year, whereupon it will hit the Facebook airways a few times ..
    Cheers and thanks
    James Mason

  2. New England Cocky

    The legal point that I find unusual is that the Australian Parliament sits and makes laws, like the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), under authority of the Australian Constitution, which is in conflict with that same Constitution at s51 regarding racial discrimination. Does this mean that the Constitution takes precedence and that racial discrimination is the actual policy of every government since 1901?

  3. pierre wilkinson

    When we finally draw up a constitution that recognises our indigenous peoples, then that day should be the new Australia Day.

  4. Josephus

    Perhaps the most moving article I have read on this site. It so happens that just today I borrowed from the local Library Stan Grant’s ‘Australia Day’, which after only 3 pages I find so apposite and profound that I must buy it.
    I do not like the way our village celebrates the Day- dressed up in the flag, sentimental baloney songs and all- a herd ritual I deeply reject. Going bush is not always a refuge , maybe quite the contrary…

    Since the Constitution has made laws for Aborigines right from the start it is necessarily a racial document. As Noel Pearson quietly observed on ABC Radio recently, therefore to add a group clause or two to assist the first peoples for the first time, as opposed to infantilising and insulting them, does NOT need a referendum at all; we all must publicise this fact. please. No need, then, to make a big fuss re a Makkarata and the Voice, since that document says that we can legislate for them. So it is not at all valid to whine that the Abos, sic, get ‘special treatment.’ They always did. This two word cliche (perhaps unjustly?) recalls for me the once common German euphemism ‘Sonderbehandlung’. Means the same thing, despite the slightly different connotations…genocidal intent here, ditto there.

  5. wam

    Someone must have read your post.
    My conservatives are sharing:
    A festoon of flags with the message
    ‘jan 26th Australia day forever share if you agree.’

  6. Keith Davis

    Interesting comments as per usual from AIMN readers. As a writer I never seek, or not seek, agreeance on whatever the issue may happen to be. After all, whatever I write just happens to be what I think. The main aim of my articles is to gently jog the neuorons of others (and … ha … sometimes myself), and that jogging often brings up some very interesting alternate points of view. Good stuff!

    Wam: you might be interested to know that I’m pulling together, slowly, an article about the Race to Space. I’m off to Tassie for a bit, but sometime in the next month I’ll post my view of the Cosmic Follies that are about to come.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Only from 1994 did Australian states and territories begin to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on 26 January. We used to just get the next Monday off regardless of date.

    I would like to offer a compromise – call January 26th Meeting Day. Historically, it was when two cultures met, but nowadays it is more about meeting up with family and friends so it has a twofold meaning.

    We can start celebrating something called Australia Day on the date we become a Republic.

  8. wam

    May 6, 2019 – This is our 4th board game project on Kickstarter. We’ve learned a lot from our previous successful projects (Space Race: The Card Game and …

    But I am waiting should the space cost give a joint india and china effort a boost.. What a game changer would a pact across the himalayas become?????

    Look forward to your words and all the posts here. They keep that bastard Al Zyma at bay.

  9. Keith Davis

    Hi Wam … I’m working on the Space article … and might be back to my quirky best with that one because the title Cosmic Folly keeps coming to mind. I’ve no doubt we’ll set up bases on the Moon and Mars, and that we’ll eventually mine the asteroid belt, but how we go about those things might be interesting to explore.. Tassie happened last week so a bit will flow from that first …

  10. Writer

    I was into this article until the 5th paragraph ” and apparently took possession of everything he could see ” You lost me at “apparently”.

    Did it happen or not ?

    Despite this, I have not celebrated on Australia Day for 38 years after I researched the facts and dates. I’d much prefer articles published from self professed ” writers” to not use the word apparently and do some research to get traction. Maybe study historical articles may help. I’m not refuting the content, I’m just stating be careful how you frame the story because ” apparently” means it’s claimed, without facts.

  11. Michael Taylor

    Writer, it would depend on who you ask.

    Under British law he did take possession of all he could see.

    Under Aboriginal “law” it would be disputed.

    And even back then they had international laws, which Cook in 1770 – it could be argued – was in breech of.

    And please don’t ask me to do some research. I have.

  12. Michael Taylor

    Keith, for what it’s worth – having re-read my old post “Was Australia invaded or settled” – I surmise that your use of the word “apparently” was rather spot-on.

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