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Nah – you can’t change the date

By 2353NM

A couple of weeks ago it was January 26. Depending on your world view, that particular day has a name. Across Australia it is a public holiday and the current Federal Government gets very upset if local Councils don’t hold citizenship ceremonies on the day.

We’re told our public holidays are always fixed dates. In addition to Australia Day being January 26, Christmas Day always falls on December 25, Boxing Day always falls on December 26, New Year’s Day always falls on January 1 and Anzac Day always falls on April 25. But that’s not the full story. The Queen’s Birthday holiday is celebrated on a Monday to create a long weekend. In most states, the weekend chosen is in June, except for Western Australia (September) and Queensland (October). Labor Day is in May in some states, October in others but the date is changed every year to create a long weekend. Probably the strangest method of calculating a date for a public holiday is Easter. Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21!

History tells us that Captain Author Phillip stepped foot onto (what is now) Australian soil on 26 January 1788. History also tells us that despite the claims of the English at the time, the land that Phillip claimed in the name of the King of England had been inhabited and maintained for thousands of years prior by one of the oldest civilisations in the world.

There are reasonably frequent stories in the media of people being upset when various governments around Australia resume land for what are promoted as ‘better uses’ and in the view of those losing the land, the compensation is not sufficient. Imagine for a minute how hurt you would be if that happened to you. Now imagine how much additional continual hurt and pain there would be if each year there was a national holiday on that day celebrating the resumption of your land.

From the 1930s to the mid 1990s Australia Day was celebrated in a traditional way, the date changed each year to ensure the public holiday was on a Monday; creating a long weekend. From 1996, Australia Day has always been on the date that causes some in our community to be reminded, yet again, that their land was resumed without (in their opinion) sufficient compensation. Certainly, none of those responsible or immediately affected by the resumption are still alive – but that’s not the point. The land was resumed without discussion or negotiation under the legal fiction of Terra Nullius.

So why can’t you change the date? It seems we can change the date of the celebration of significant religious events, the monarch’s birthday (which is really in April anyway) or even ‘cultural’ icons like the Melbourne Cup. Generally the events we change the date of each year are kept in the same part of the year – for example the Melbourne Cup is always the first Tuesday in November. While Christmas Day on December 25 is a convention across the Christian world based on a belief that it is the birthdate of Jesus – however as we’re really not sure of what year he was born, it’s a big call to suggest we know the date with certainty.

Yet we persist with the illogical leap of faith that we should be celebrating the day a government authority used a legal fiction to take possession of a large land mass without the approval of the owners and paid absolutely nothing in compensation. Is it any wonder our first nations people aren’t enamoured with a public holiday each year to commemorate and celebrate the event?

The National Australia Day Council’s ‘tag line’ is Reflect, Respect, Celebrate and they tell us

On Australia Day, we reflect on our history, its highs and its lows.
We respect the stories of others.
And we celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all, its people.

And while they attempt to encourage forgiveness and inclusion, the Council doesn’t select the day chosen to be the day of reflection on our country, our past and our future.

Of course we can change the date. While we can’t unscramble the egg and pretend Captain Phillip and his ships, full of the ‘dregs’ of English society never landed, we can move the date of the national celebration and reflection to something far less confrontational to many. Maybe we should consider a long weekend around the time of the first sitting of the Australian Parliament – which occurred on May 9, 1901. After all, the long weekend is an Australian tradition we probably all support!

What do you think?


This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. Mick Perger

    Why not make it May the 8th ? May 8 ? Mate? MMMMAAAAAAATTTTTTEEEEE.

  2. leefe

    Cut the final link to the British crown, institute the republic on the first Monday in February, and there’s our brand new, angst-free (except for the rusted on monarchists), movable, national long weekend. What’s not to love about it?

  3. New England Cocky

    Perhaps you could read the High Court of Australia view of this matter:

    Coe v Commonwealth [1993] HCA 42; (1993) 68 ALJR 110; (1993) 118 ALR 193 (23 December 1993)
    Coe v Commonwealth [1979] HCA 68; (1979) 53 ALJR 403; (1979) 24 ALR 118 (5 April 1979)

    This matter should be read in the context of the prevailing opinions of that time, 1788, rather than as a 21st century viewpoint.

  4. Phil Pryor

    Australia Day is every day, actually. Jan.1 reminds us of 1901. Feb. 31 could be good, allowing for days of oblivion. How about Nothing at all?

  5. RosemaryJ36

    Why do we need an Australia Day?

  6. Carl Marks

    Can they bring forward the election?

    It is horrifying to see the caricature of an organisation the ABC has become and I really would like to see a new government in as soon as possible to begin “budget repair” , both for public broadcasting , in the gunsights of the IPA and in the wider meaningful sense that esposes the drain ivolving corruption.
    An again decent media would not obscure evidence into massive rorting that impairs the real economy in favour of the greedy propertarians funding the IPA lies, with McCarthyism and bunkum like all day coverages of second tier local politicians, imaginary “wars” and 19th century Sinophobia bogy campaigns, used one suspects, as diversions from unpalatable and comfortably obscured facts closer to home.

    Months of months of time wasted and sensibilities and intelligence brutally abused, just so the government can brainwash people, ffs?

  7. wam

    A good read, 2353 NM,
    Those days you mention are white pommie australian dates and not to do with Aborigines, or, for that matter, chinese, greeks etc.
    Our special racism prevents us from considering Aborigines capable of being equal.
    Despite this un-recognized racism, the logical day for me is may 27 when australia became Australians.

  8. king1394

    I have to point out that Christmas, and Easter are both related to the seasons. Christmas is midwinter and the rebirth of the sun. Easter is spring. These festive times are much older than the Christian myths

  9. pierre wilkinson

    when we finally have a bill of rights, a proper inclusive constitution and become a republic, then that day should be our day of celebration

  10. Mr Bronte D G ALLAN

    All great comments! We MUST move Australia day to a date that is “comfortable” for all concerned! Certainly NOT January 26th which is like a slap in the face to most Indigenous persons. Not sure if I know when it should be, but surely, the people with brains & understanding can arrive at a date that is suitable for all? And whilst these people are in the mood, we MUST have a new Australian flag that reflects who we are, not just kowtowing to the bloody Union Jack! Also a new National; Anthem that suits ALL Australians rather than the “girt by sea” crap we are saddled with!

  11. margcal

    May 8 is VE Day

  12. B Sullivan

    “History also tells us that despite the claims of the English at the time, the land that Phillip claimed in the name of the King of England had been inhabited and maintained for thousands of years prior by one of the oldest civilisations in the world.”

    Not so. History tells us that civilisation first arrived in Australia on the 26 January 1788. The earliest known city in Australia is the Sydney penal settlement. It would be wonderful of course if evidence of a long lost city did come to light but that is highly unlikely. The term civilisation is derived from the word civitas meaning city and denotes that a culture has achieved the ability to cooperate and build cities. The earliest known is Catal Huyuk in Turkey which was established around 7500 BC.

    It is the culture that was one of the oldest unchanging cultures in the world until European colonisation arrived and changed everything. Australia is an isolated island continent with no high mountains to produce reliable snow fed rivers that could create a ‘fertile crescent’ that could sustain agriculture and populations large enough to establish a civilisation. The environment was just too hostile for a civilisation to evolve as it did in other parts of the world with more favorable conditions, like Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus.

    So civilisation in Australia began on the 26th January 1778. Botany Bay doesn’t count. The land was claimed because that was what colonising civilisations did during what is now called the Age of Expansion. Even if Australia had been civilised like the Aztecs or the Incas or, closer to home, the Maoris, it wouldn’t have stopped it from being taken over by people with the superior technology to do so.

    There used to be a distinctly different culture in Australia that lived in the Kimberly area and that modern Aborigines call the Gwion Gwion. What happened to them is a mystery, but the fact that they definitely existed casts some doubt on Aboriginal claims of first nation status. Perhaps the Gwion Gwion had a civilisation that collapsed due to climate change leaving then vulnerable to be displaced by a newer arrival of people into Australia.

    Maybe one day archaeologists might uncover evidence of a Gwion Gwion city buried and forgotten for thousands of years, but until that unlikely event we are obliged to recognise that Australia was the last inhabited continent to be civilised. The “oldest civilisation in the world” claim/belief is just ignorant nonsense that may be well-meant but which doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    So, instead of calling it Australia Day, perhaps it should be called Civilisation Day in recognition of a historical fact.

    That is what history tells us.

  13. Fred

    B Sullivan – Suggest you have a look at So how come you know better than the experts? That the first people didn’t build cities doesn’t mean the land wasn’t occupied. When it comes to “civilisation”, living in cities hasn’t always been successful – there have been plenty of failures.

    I’m disgusted that you consider “being taken over by people with the superior technology to do so” vis. “might is right” as valid. By that logic you’d support Russia when it invades the Ukraine.

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