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Date Rage

Racism and the Australia Day Conundrum

If you listen to some in the political classes, Australia day is a day for all Australians to come together, therefore it should remain unchanged. But in spite of this rhetoric every year it becomes clearer. Australia day is driving us apart, not bringing us together.

The date debate has divided our nation. On the left is a progressive movement for inclusivity through change. On the right a nostalgic camp of date loyalists who see change as an affront to our nation.

Even though the date remains the same, many seem oblivious to the fact that Australia day has already changed. It is no longer the joyous, white, flag waving, beach BBQ of the Howard era. These days it is broadly recognised as invasion day, which makes throwing a huge party seem somewhat problematic (and a little distasteful).

It can be difficult to illicit empathy for those we see as “not like us.” Often we need to imagine things in a more identifiable construct in order to understand those that seem so intractably foreign. So, imagine if you will…

France, June 25, 1940…

Hitler’s troops have defeated the allies and take France. Then move forward 81 years, and imagine the incongruity of the French getting ready to celebrate their national day. June 25th 2021, the day Hitler’s troops conquered France. The German settlers can’t understand why so many native French people have a problem with the date. “It’s been that date for decades”, they cry, “it is a day to bring us all together”.

In this context the problem is obvious to most of us. We actually get it. But when it comes to first nation’s people in Australia, we seem to suffer from a collective lack of imagination. We just can’t see how things might look through their eyes.

While we regale ourselves with idealised tales of mate-ship and ANZACS and solemnly reflect on mantras of “lest we forget,” we spit back at first nation’s people with a patronising prescriptive “just get over it.”

What many date loyalist fail to understand is that in sticking with Jan 26 we are engaging in a socially sanctioned form of white supremacy, (something a lot of Australians don’t feel at all comfortable with). Date loyalty is aligning yourself with a damaging social divide that adversely effects many of our first nation’s people.

Date loyalty is sending a clear message, “Your trauma and grief are of no interest or importance to us.”

Just as it was with the toxic “Coon Cheese” name debate, or the rejection of the statement of the heart, the date loyalists are making their opinion quite clear. First nation’s people have no place in defining the culture-scape of our nation.

Those resisting change need to get over their collective lack of imagination. Denying first nation’s people a voice in defining what is celebrated, and what is mourned is simply wrong.

Date change may not be on the calendar just yet, but a growing number of Australians feel uncomfortable with the status quo. Date change will happen, but the question is how much damage will occur waiting for our politicians to lead from behind.

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  1. Michael

    We are living the consequences of all past decisions – we therefore cannot absolve our selves as if we do not have any connection with the past – with the benfit of clarity of 20/20 vision hindsight, we can not change the past mistakes but even they serve a purpose, we can all learn from them, accept responsibility and accountability to transparently steer correction from today.

  2. Geoff Andrews

    Great double entendre title. Your French – German analogy is perfect. The landing of Phillip on 26/01/1788 means nothing to the lives of 95% of Australians. whose ancestors have come from (probably) every other country, well after that date. The living 1,564 direct descendants of the first fleeters excepted, of course – for them alone the date shouldn’t be changed! The remaining 5% have every reason to remember 26/01/1788: the effect on their daily lives and that of every ancestor born after 26/01/1788, is so dramatically different from that of mine and my ancestors and every pissed yahoo driving past me today in his SUV, flag a-fluttering wants nothing to change. And nothing will change while they live the fantasy that “Australia Day” is important to them – the holiday, the beach, the piss, the big game & home to the farter. An’ anyhow, wot about the TRADITION – it’s been goin’ fer 60 years,mate, git real! Fortunately, I think that a more appropriate date can be found to feel all warm, fuzzy and drunk together – the referendum in 1900 or the sudden realisation in 1967 that aborigines ranked higher than cattle (now, THAT was a proud moment, Michael.). Whether the date is changed or not; Invasion Day has long legs & is here to stay.

  3. Michael Taylor

    Yes, change the date. Many people are suggesting Jan 1 as a better date. No, no, no, please don’t make in Jan 1.

    Jan 1, 1901 was the day we became a federation.

    As January 26 will always be remembered as Invasion Day, perhaps January 1 can be remembered as Exclusion Day: the date the First Australians were officially excluded.

    The First Australians were no longer considered Australians.

  4. Michael

    Putting forward that the date be of significance to/in nature and agreed upon by Traditional Owners

  5. Josephus

    They were not citizens of anywhere before Federation or after. I have long used the analogy of the Japanese counter history that the Japanese have conquered Oz and that we celebrate this with our flag , which has a Japanese flag in one corner. A much nearer thought experiment. But changing the date is empty tokenism as is the apology unless and until we stop deaths in custody, racist remarks( like the ones about Jews last century- they make worse citizens than the Brits, so what do you do about a British Jew I wonder…), the imprisonment for minor infractions, and most disgusting of all is the lie of those who govern us that the Makkarata is a third Chamber. It is shameful in the very bones of my being that those who speak in our name are so devoid of sympathy and so happy to lie a la Trump or Adolf.

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    Let the date stay but refer to it as anything but Australia Day. Perhaps Invasion Day, Reconciliation day, Multicultural day, Aboriginal Pride Day, Terra Australis or Gondwana day…. The possibilities are endless once the initial description is eliminated. You can still have your barbecues, surf life saving carnivals and all the other paraphenalia. And a public holiday to boot !!!

  7. Michael Taylor

    BTW, a good read, Letitia. And good to see you again. I trust you have been taking care.

  8. Max Gross

    Just scrap it until we all grow up!

  9. Kronomex

    Scrap Right Wing Nationalist Happy Day until the children of Howard grow up? How…how dare you…what would the LNP do if we did such a sensible thing? Oh wait…altogether now…1…2…3…it would all be…

  10. David Larkin

    Time and again when the the decision has been taken out of the hands of politicians leading from behind, Australians have demonstrated just how decent and fair minded they really are. The 1969 referendum and the recent marriage plebiscite spring to mind. Yes we want to celebrate being Australian but there is no reason why we have to select a date as provocative to the original inhabitants.

  11. Josephus

    Excellent suggestions all round. I add get rid of Wyatt.

  12. Florence Howarth

    Was the day our states were organised into a federation, making us one country. Not sure, in fact, was not the day we became an independent nation. 120 years later, we still have not broken all our links to what many in my youth, called the mother country. It was nearly another half a century before we became Australian citizens.

  13. Jack sprat

    Australia day , we all get together to celebrate the arrival of uninvited criminal boat people in 1788 . How our view of boat people has changed since that first lot arrived .

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