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Australia, we can do better

There are so many of us that think January 26th is a dreadful choice for a national celebration of nationhood, one wonders why a change of date struggles to gain more traction.

Why do we punish ourselves so? Choosing to celebrate the birth of our nation on a day that commemorates the arrival of the first fleet from England, shows just how small-minded we are.

Does any other nation celebrate its nationhood on the date that marked its colonisation? It’s not as if there weren’t any other appropriate days upon which to mark this occasion, not the least of which is January 1st, symbolically the date we actually became a nation.

But to use a date when only a part of the country became an English colony….when the majority of the population in situ at the time, had already been here for thousands of years, seems to defy logic.

If logic had anything to do with it, we should be considering May 9th, which marks the opening of the first Parliament in Melbourne in 1901. It is the date the new Parliament House was opened in Canberra in 1925 and the date the second Parliament House was opened in 1988. How’s that for a trifecta?

Every year, as this embarrassing time draws near, out come the cries of distress on one side and the staunch reinforcement on the other. It’s so juvenile, no wonder so much of the country has switched off on both the conversation and the celebration.

I remember when it used only to be acknowledged as a long weekend at the end of January regardless of what day of the week it actually fell. No one thought anything of it. No one cared. It was a non-event. We just wanted the long weekend.

“The tradition of having Australia Day as a national holiday on 26 January is a recent one. Not until 1935 did all the Australian states and territories use that name to mark that date. Not until 1994 did they begin to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on that date.”

What a tragedy! In 1994, just 25 years ago we decided to recognise the day, ON THE DAY. What happened? Instead of it being a very convenient long weekend that marked the end of the summer holidays, the last day before everyone went back to work, which was really the only thing on anyone’s mind, each state government agreed to make it a formal affair. Who asked them to do that?

That was the time we should have had a real conversation about choosing a more appropriate date. What were those bogans thinking? Where was the movement for change?

Now, as matters stand on the day, we all pretend our patriotic spirit extends to having a wonderful time on a day we used to ignore, a day we now have barbecues and parties, get drunk and a new generation of bogans drape that equally controversial flag around their shoulders.

So here we are. Another year will come and go, one will reflect on how dumb it all was and how the banality of it all was overtaken by the controversy it generated. Little wonder our first nations’ Australians look upon us and shake their heads in bewilderment.

Rather than call it Australia Day, we should rename it ‘idiots’ day,’ or ‘bogans’ day’ to commemorate the stupid thing those bogan state representatives agreed to in 1994.

To add insult to injury, this year we have our fearless, feckless prime minister entering the fray, flexing his muscles and warning all local councils to stop fooling around, stop wearing shorts and thongs and make things more formal.

Bonjour le bruit!

For me, January 1st is the day. Forget that half the country is recovering from a hangover. Just keep the party going for another 24 hours.

Australia, we can do better.

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33 comments

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  1. Baby Jewels

    I’m going to ignore Australia Day until it’s moved to a more appropriate day.

  2. Rona Goold

    I vote for 17th September – Citizenship Day

  3. RosemaryJ36

    When I was a child in England, I remember we used to celebrate Empire Day on my brother’s birthday in May. Later it was called Commonwealth Day.
    I struggle to understand the flag flying fervour with which some celebrate Australia Day.
    Please can you tell me how to submit an article to be considered for publication.

  4. David Bruce

    Some have suggested April 1 would be more in keeping with the hysterical records?

  5. Joseph Carli

    RosemaryJ36…: ” Please can you tell me how to submit an article to be considered for publication.”….Looking forward to it…I believe I “owe” you one…. 🙂

    ” If your authors cannot accept criticism they should establish their own blogs!”

  6. Keitha Granville

    I like the May date, parliament, that’s the making of a nation.
    Jan 1 is already a holiday, New Year’s Day, too many people with hangovers 😛

    I grew up in the 60s, Australia Day wasn’t ever a holiday celebrated as a nation. Why are we adopting the xenophobic nationalism of the Yanks ?

  7. Paul Davis

    John Kelly, as you say:
    I remember when it used only to be acknowledged as a long weekend at the end of January regardless of what day of the week it actually fell. No one thought anything of it. No one cared. It was a non-event. We just wanted the long weekend.

    In fact, the actual 26th was often NOT a public holiday due to explanation above. My NSW drivers licence was dated 26 January, and was ‘renewed’ showing that date for at over forty years since i moved from Victoria in the 70s….i was disappointed to lose that renewal date when i had to change to a Qld licence last year.

    If the bogans MUST celebrate their Jingo Day, (or should that be Dingo Day) make it May 9th. Or better still how about a really progressive guvmint declare Ozstraya, allegedly the greatest multicultural success story (“from all the lands on erf we come”) will celebrate International Humanity Day instead…. or should that be a day of mourning for every other species…?

  8. John Boyd

    Not high on my worry list….Let’s get a new government with some decent priorities…we can worry about an ‘Australia Day’ as part of the republic debate…down the track a bit.

  9. Aortic

    Well said John hope you are doing well. I well remember John Pilger asking some Strayans what they thought of the ” day” in terms of the potential impact on our first Australians. One lovely man, who was with his wife and kids responded, ” Ah you’re full of shit” and stormed off sporting our wonderfully patriotic flag. Time for a Republic, a new flag and a new national anthem. Still they do have Tony Nullius as their envoy which no doubt will promote their cause no end leading to a ” Treaty” no doubt. He will probably also admit that taxpayers are now able to afford their remote lifestyle due to the wonderful surplus strained by the better economic management of his party. What a guy!

  10. Rona Goold

    Citizenship Day – 17th September

    Has a lot going for it!

  11. Michael Taylor

    John, I agree with everything but Jan 1. Sure, it’s the date we became a federation, but if one looks at the reasons behind federation it would be the only date that would be more offensive to the First Australians than Jan 26.

    One of the driving forces behind federation was the emerging sense of nationhood. A white nation, that is. Cries of “Australia for the white man” were ringing out all through the 1890s, and indeed, the first act of the new parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act … better known as the White Australia Policy. Neither were the First Australians considered to have a future in the white Australia, and policies were implemented to hurry along their demise. I am writing a post about this, but I’ll have to burn some midnight oil to condense it from the first draft of 3,500 words.

    As an aside, eleven First Australians from WA went and fought in the Boer War. We federated while they were away fighting. The White Australia Policy had come into force before they headed back home, but they were denied entry because they were black, and their land in WA was seized. Their descendants still live in South Africa.

  12. Diannaart

    Michael

    Denying people born in Australia reentry?Truly woeful, sounds like something that inspires Herr Dutton today.

    Now, about Morrison, what’s with the baseball caps, leisure wear daggy dad look and then the ruling for “no thongs or T-shirts” on Invasion Day?

    https://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/fb2e5985dac23defba639439eadd3a67

    Does he not understand his own voting base?

  13. Kaye Lee

    I like the suggestion of wattle day – a spring festival where we raise money for charity and celebrate our children instead of just getting shit-faced

    “The first celebration of Wattle Day was held on 1 September 1910 in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Plans in 1913 to proclaim the wattle a national emblem and celebrate Wattle Day nationally were interrupted by World War I, but wattle remained a strong symbol of patriotism during the war years. In the 1920s and 1930s, Wattle Day continued to be celebrated, still associated with raising money for charity but also featuring special activities for children and ceremonies to mark the occasion.”

  14. pierre wilkinson

    When we become a republic, with a Bill of Rights and Indigenous Recognition, then that day should be the new Australia Day.

  15. Rona Goold

    My post escaped – 🙁

    RE:Citizenship Day 17th September

    The 17 September was chosen because it is the anniversary of the renaming of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 to the Australian Citizenship Act 1948. Many Australian citizenship ceremonies are held on Australian Citizenship Day to mark this special occasion.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Citizenship_Day

    The Greens MP have taken up this date too for new citizens – but it is also the day ALL Australians NATIVE born and overseas born can participate in Citizenship Affirmation ceremonies.

    Give the importance of Citizenship now, it would be a good day for Communities to invitee all 18 years olds as a “Welcome to Community” Celebration. Healthier than Schoolies week. We have no national celebration for young people that many other countries have.

  16. Paul Davis

    Good point Rona.

    A Sydney based friend of mine years ago commenting on the retailers exploitation of Xmas claimed the three wise men were David Jones and the Grace Brothers…. in similar vein it seems that schoolies is the perfect invention of the liquor and tourism industry and has been wholeheartedly embraced by the bogans. It would be extraordinary, nay, impossible, to see this excess of excess rechannelled into anything healthy, uplifting or mature…

  17. Matters Not

    Here’s a thought – make EVERY day Australia Day. Nothing could be fairer. End of controversy.

    As for the Australian Flag – let’s not have one. See a bare flagpole – it’s the Australian Flag flying free – flapping in the imaginary breeze. Further, when every other Nation lowers theirs – effectively – they are raising ours. So said Phillip Adams many years ago.

    Do we really need to waste time on these distractions? Apparently so.

  18. Neil Hogan

    January 26 is the anniversary of the 1788 landing by the British government to establish a penal colony in a place Captain James Cook had called New South Wales after a visit in 1770.

    January 26, 1788 was also considered to be invasion day by the local indigenous people, who had lived in the area for at least 40,000 years, as they had no say whatsoever about the establishment of the penal colony by the British government.

    Given that, there has been talk for some time now about changing the date of what has been called Australia Day & here are some important dates in the history of the country that might be considered as possible alternative dates for a true Australia Day.

    July 9 – The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act became law. (1900)

    January 1 – The Beginning of Australia as the Commonwealth of Australia. (1901)

    May 9 – Marks the opening of the first Parliament in Melbourne. (1901)

    September 1 – Wattle Day. (1910)

    May 27 – Successful referendum re the Constitution on Aboriginal Rights. (1967)

    August 10 – Alterations to the Constitution on Aboriginal Rights became law. (1967)

    December 4 – Australia Act passed by the Australian Government. (1985)

    February 17 – Australia Act passed by the British Government. (1986)

    March 3 – Commencement of the Australia Act. (1986)

    September 27 – Australian Citizenship Day. (2001)

  19. whatever

    Fishkill Day!
    Put your baseball cap on, inject those steroids and get down to St Kilda Beach.

  20. helvityni

    “flapping in the imaginary breeze”

    MN, was it you or Philip who said it, that’s bloody funny….

    Whatever, so is “Fishkill Day”…..

  21. Tjina Palka

    NATION WIDE TREATIES OR NO PARTY………..

    I propose we change it to the date that the Commonwealth enters into genuine, inalienable treaty with every and all aboriginal nations on this island.

    The birth of the greatest country on this planet and the RE-BIRTH(so to speak) of the greatest and most ancient of cultures.

    How do you “Advance Australia Fair”.
    TREATY

  22. Kaye Lee

    “Do we really need to waste time on these distractions?”

    Governments must be able to deal with many things at the same time – some more urgent than others, some with greater consequences than others etc.

    That doesn’t mean that discussion on other issues should stop.

    I also find the flag offensive. It symbolises vassal status and is not relevant to Australia now. Perhaps all these things can be changed when we become a republic.

    I do not understand why we insist on being deliberately hurtful to our Indigenous people. I cannot imagine how they must have felt when all the hard work that went into the Uluru Statement from the Heart was so summarily rejected.

    We CAN do better and we MUST.

  23. Klaus Petrat

    It appears the LNP strategy has worked. Everyone wastes oxygen on a topic that shouldn’t get a mention considering there is an environmental disaster emerging due to corrupt and criminal behavior.

    Ongoing climate change seems to increase in exponential rates. Inequality is rising just as fast.

    And even in this forum, the dead cat on the table is working for the LNP.

    As much as I love this forum but this is a waste of time. Get back on topic please.

  24. John Kelly

    Klaus Petrat, it’s just a little light relief before the main game. No one is being distracted, no one is blind to the attempted deflections. The cavalry are in the tanks, the artillery in position and the troops are primed for an advance. We are ready.

  25. Darian Hiles

    26 January is a perfect symbol for the modern immigration that followed and should be retained on that basis. However, ignoring the original Aboriginal occupation is the bigger issue and a festering sore that won’t go away until we recognise it formally.

    The solution is simple: return to the long weekend format centered on 26 January (which marks the biggest change to Australia) with;

    Aboriginal Culture Day on the Saturday (authentic and designed by existing Aboriginal law people),
    Immigration & citizenship day on the Sunday and
    Australia Day, when everyone celebrates together, on the Monday public holiday.

    Every Aboriginal elder I’ve spoken to accepts this enthusiastically but it seems to worry the powers that be – maybe because they worry about formal recognition.

  26. Terence Mills

    I have always been impressed with the maritime achievement of the First Fleet bringing eleven ships on what must be one of the greatest and most challenging of sea voyages in human history.

    We know that pretty well all voyages of discovery and settlement, be they the Polynesians throughout the Pacific including New Zealand, or Columbus and the Pilgrims in the Americas were accompanied by some level of dispossession.
    Many of us from the British Isles are descendants of those who were subject to invasion by Roman legions and the Norman armies led by William I : it’s a fact and our ancestors just got on with it.

    There is no denying the past and if you must change the date of Australia Day for symbolic reasons then please do not deny the achievements of the first fleet and the good as well as the bad that has come from European settlement in this land.

  27. Darian Hiles

    Even more so, PLEASE do not deny the achievements of Aboriginal culture over tens of thousands of years – which, as everyone knows, we do. This is massively to our loss, as they developed a system of knowledge that could add to ours (medicine, plant growth, historical astronomical observations, etc., etc.), which we obsessively ignore by “just getting on” with our comfortable, set ways.

  28. Kaye Lee

    It was an amazing voyage but its arrival marked the beginning of a terrible period for Indigenous people. Our wealth is built, not only on stealing their land, but murdering them and enslaving their children. We used Aboriginal labour and stole their wages so they did not benefit from the growing wealth of the nation.

    It also marks the beginning of Australia as a gaol.

    It was not a joyous date for anyone really.

  29. tyrannosauruswenz

    Thank you for writing what I remember, that Australia Day was a non-event public holiday until very recently. I recall some people wearing green and gold, not flags, and playing backyard cricket. A welcome long weekend in the hottest month of the year. (grew up 70s/80s)

    A couple of points I have read recently in articles but not yet researched –

    Rum Rebellion. January 26th – Governer Bligh forcibly deposed. The first or only overthrow of Australian (well, colonial British) Government? Can’t imagine bringing that up would be comfortable for our current pollies. Which amuses me.
    January 26th was declared the national day in the 1930s as a direct response to an First People’s protest about the day being a painful reminder to them.

    I cannot fathom why this is even an issue. Our original Australians are deeply unhappy and disenfranchised by this date, it seems a no brainer to change it. I also would prefer the day to be on the date we sign a Treaty.

  30. Kath Sugars

    I believe we should sign a treaty and have Australia Day on that day; I don’t think a majority of people will agree on any of the dates being posited right now. It is harder to make change when there is no viable alternative. So in the meantime, we discuss, learn, explore options and understanding, and by the time it happens it will be truly a symbolic change in our culture and social contract with our first peoples.

  31. Anthony Shorter

    Waitangi Day in New Zealand is a National holday commemorating the Treaty of Waitangi signed between the British and the Maori people.
    It’s time we signed a treaty with our First Nation people. This should be the date of our national holiday.
    Treaty Day.

  32. king1394

    The other States have their Foundation Days, maybe NSW can do so too. We cannot have Australia Day until we become a Republic

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