After the Council of the City of Yarra (in NE Melbourne) decided to drop all references to Australia Day and cancelled its annual citizenship ceremony, conservatives around the country spat the dummy. Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy called on the State Government to sack the council. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in between sessions of tearing his hair out at the number of foreigners in his government, was deeply disappointed that it was “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”. He then generously added “I recognise Australia Day, and its history, is complex for many Indigenous Australians, but the overwhelming majority of Australians believe the 26th of January is the day and should remain our national day.”1
Turnbull seems not to realise that many indigenous Australians call Australia Day ‘invasion day’, so it seems that date is already dividing Australians as it represents, more or less, the date Australia was claimed (again) for the British Crown by Arthur Philip, after the arrival of the first fleet2.
Turnbull also stated that the council was repudiating Australian values which, Turnbull seemed to indicate, are: indigenous feelings and opinions are of little consequence. Besides, over half (57%) of Australians have no idea what happened on January 26th, with 20% believing it has something to do with James Cook landing somewhere, 17% believing it was the anniversary of Federation, and some dummies thinking it was a First World War battle3. It is these ignoramuses who would probably be most strident in their opposition to any change of date despite being ignorant of its significance. As I have said elsewhere2, the day of the 1967 referendum (May 27) would be a better day, and hopefully more inclusive. All that has to be overcome for an inclusive date of any sort, is white conservative hysteria and ignorance.
Aahh, but Admin – you presuppose that Australia Day is first and foremost a celebration of an historical event! I think in reality it is much more important to most Australians from a pragmatic point of view as a public holiday in summer! It is that most useful of holidays because it neatly brackets January following the public holidays over Christmas and New Year. And with school going back soon after, Australia Day is perfectly positioned to end summer holidays for most Australian families. A public holiday in May would never do! And anyway, there’s already Anzac Day in April and the Queen’s Birthday bash in June.
No- pragmatism rules Australian life – and probably so it should!
As it says in the piece, most Australians don’t know specifically what it is supposed to celebrate. I’d suggest getting rid of the Queen’s birthday (which it actually isn’t; her birthday is April 21; her coronation was on June 2), replacing it with Australia day on May 27, and having something else at the end of the summer if so required.
As previously mentioned I am not fussed about the date of Australia Day. However, I would again suggest that for most Australians it is very much a third order issue well behind the cost of living, the price of housing, the cost and reliability of the power supply, the fact that the roads in our major cities are becoming increasingly clogged, etc. The historic fact is that January 26 is the date when modern Australia was founded. As noted by Prame it is also at a pragmatic time. As previously noted, if I had to change the date I would choose the date during World War II on which the Statute of Westminster became law in Australia–prior to that we were not fully independent.
I would not take too much notice of the Yarra Council in any case. As I understand it they are basically a bunch of latte drinking, chardonnay sipping Green voters from inner Melbourne who would not know the real world if they fell over it. What I require from our council is a weekly garbage collection, a decent library service and proper maintenance of our roads and footpaths–we are of course in an inner city Adelaide council which is essentially non political.
Incidentally, I was watching The Drum last week. They were discussing the date of Australia Day and the young lady who represented The Big River Mob (presumably an indigenous group–I missed the start of the programme) seemed to think that January 26 was the date that Captain Cook landed at Kurnell. She repeated this several times. If you are going to criticise something you should at least get your facts straight–she was only 18 years and 15-20 kilometres out.
January 26th does not represent the day when modern Australia was founded. It is when we became a penal colony for Britain. The founding of modern Australia was on January 1, 1901. The latte-sipping, chardonnay sipping Green council, have just been joined or are about to be joined by another council (Darebin) in the Melbourne area, and other councils are contemplating it. They must sell a lot of Latte and Chardonnay in Melbourne. I know there are lots of things that seem more important than changing Australia day, but the government is a very sophisticated organism and can actually do more than one thing at a time, although with this current mob it seems mostly they can do concurrent cock-ups. The lack of understanding of the significance of January 26 is not only restricted to teenagers. The survey I mention in the article gives the figures.