It’s a big weekend across the nation with Australia Day dominating the events calendar. Every year the "Change the Date" debate rages. Those who want the date changes ask the following question of us every January. How can we celebrate a day of national pride on a day that for our first nation’s people is traditionally a day of mourning and remembrance? Currently the overwhelming majority of Australian’s want Australia Day to remain on January 26th. I have no issue with those sentiments given that, for the most part, they come from a place of good rather than hatred.
The majority of those who celebrate Australia Day are not racists at heart. They should not be painted as such. Most don’t have an ounce of hate in their heart when they campaign for Australia Day to stay put on its current date. These are simply people that have a deep love of their country and fail to understand why the whole nation doesn't come together and celebrate everything this amazing country has given us.
But there are others.
There are some that deny any wrong was done against Indigenous Australia during early settlement. Others admit that while bad things may have happened over 200 years ago, the people of today should get on with it and “move on”. Worse still, there are those who claim that the British landing in Australia and subsequent genocide that took place was justified.
While the majority of Australias First Nations people want the date changed others are passionate advocates for keeping Australia Day in its current position on the calendar. They claim that Indigenous Australians have far greater issues to solve than the date of our National Day. In my opinion they are both right and wrong at the same time. They correct in saying that Indigenous Australia has far greater issues to solve. Some of those issues are life and death. Our first nation’s people suffer higher suicide rates, deaths in custody and drug related deaths. They have a lower life expectancy and lower employment rates than the rest of the ethnicities that make up this great nation. Those are massive issues that need solutions.
Sentiments such as those described above miss an important point in this discussion. To say that because there are issues more important than “Changing the Date” for Indigenous Australians that the campaign is without merit is not correct. Worse, when Indigenous Australians speak on keeping the date where it is, others use those words as justification to ignore the discussion. Or worse still, as justification for racist beliefs and comments. The “get over it” brigade love a high profile Indigenous Australian speaking up on behalf of Australia Day staying put on January 26th.
To understand and participate in the Australia Day debate one first needs to remove emotion from the discussion and look at facts. This isn’t easy as for many there is no debate in which they exude such passion. Let’s ask and attempt to answer some serious questions, and dispel some myths, regarding Australia Day. Along the way we will deal with some hard truths all the while approaching the topic with objectiveness and empathy. We will continue this discussion over the next couple of days and I urge you to follow the journey with me. Nothing is more important to a nations pride and place in the world than its national day.