Every year, the polls show that Aussies love Australia and support keeping our national holiday as it is. It is not racism or ignorance driving this, but the belief that what unites us is worth celebrating.
This week our nation celebrates Australia Day. For many it will be a day of barbecues, beaches and backyard cricket. For others, the 26th of January will be marked with flags and fanfare over our country’s proud achievements. Once again, thousands of migrants will choose the national holiday to celebrate their full adoption as Aussie citizens.
And yes, for some, Australia Day symbolises pain and trauma. As in previous years, we will hear calls to change the date, rename it ‘Invasion Day’, or abolish it altogether.
Most Australians have some familiarity with our nation’s mixed history, and therefore understand where these calls come from.
Atrocious acts were committed against Indigenous communities by well-armed and often-prejudiced Europeans who made the journey here in the 18th century. Disease, malice and bad policy also took their toll on Aboriginal communities in the centuries since.
While the gap in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians today has many causes, one is undoubtedly the injustices of the past whose affects still linger.
But with all this in view, the majority of Australians support keeping Australia Day as it is. According to the most recent poll, 65 per cent of the country believes Australia Day should be celebrated on the 26th of January, and only 15 per cent believe it should be changed. Happily, 84 per cent say they are proud to be Australian.
Cracker poll out today:
🇦🇺 65% support for #AustraliaDay on 26 January, only 15% want to #changethedate.
🇦🇺 84% are proud to be an Australian, only 5% disagree.
🇦🇺 69% of Australians believe ‘Australia has a history to be proud of’ only 14% disagree. https://t.co/GSj5vY2JJO
— Evan Mulholland (@evmulholland) January 16, 2022
Why Australians Support Australia Day
It is not ignorance, racism or a lack of compassion that lead most Australians to this view. It is common-sense love of country: the belief that Australia is good despite its many imperfections, and that what unites us is more important than our differences.
Renaming our national holiday won’t achieve what we’re told it will. We already have many days each year to observe Indigenous culture, history, disadvantage and resilience. In 2022, Australia will mark:
13th February | National Apology Day
17th March | National Close the Gap Day
26th May | National Sorry Day
27th May | Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum
27th May—3rd June | Reconciliation Week
3rd June | Mabo Day
1st July | Coming of the Light
3rd—10th July | NAIDOC Week
4th August | National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day
9th August | International Day of the Worlds Indigenous People
7th September | Indigenous Literacy Day
13th September | Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
Australia Day is distinct from all other such days because it isn’t about a subset of our country’s population. It’s about all of us — about what we share in common despite our past and our differences.
Changing the Date Won’t Solve Any Problems
Moreover, changing the date of Australia Day will achieve little. As part of its campaign to this end, News.Com.Au recently listed a range of alternatives in a survey:
1st January | when Commonwealth of Australia came into being
31st January | keeps it in January, but away from 26th
First Monday in February | we all just want a long weekend
8th May | because it looks like “M8”
9th May | when we became a self-governing federation in 1901
26th May | National Sorry Day
27th May | when Indigenous Aussies were included in the census
30th July | the first Australia Day celebrated in 1915
17th September | last trace of White Australia policy removed
All these options suffer from one of three flaws. Some are already commemorated for their Indigenous significance and are specifically for Indigenous Australians, not all Australians. Others are flippant, with no substance or national significance. And the remainder are about important events in Australian history which we can be certain will offend the same noisy voices who are unhappy with January 26.
‘Invasion Day’ and the Inner-City Bubble
The other option is to abolish our national holiday altogether. But this is a nihilistic endeavour. It is borne of the misguided belief that there is nothing to celebrate about modern Australia save for its radical activist movement.
Indeed, the loudest proponent of the ‘Invasion Day’ campaign is Greens Senator Lydia Thorpe, who cheered the recent act of arson at Old Parliament House by tweeting, “Seems like the colonial system is burning down. Happy New Year everyone.” How can such a mindset ever be appeased?
The reality is that opinions on this subject are often determined by geography, not race. Inner city elites who feed on a diet of neo-Marxism are much more concerned about this debate than most Aboriginal communities.
For instance, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp has cancelled the Australia Day parade for the second year in a row while giving the green light to an ‘Invasion Day’ rally. Capp is as white as the driven snow just, as many rally-goers will be — and yet outside of the inner-city bubble, countless Indigenous Aussies will be celebrating and relaxing with their mates without a second thought this Wednesday.
Celebrating What Unites Us
You might be under the impression that Australia Day is a contentious issue. The vocal minority want you to think that. The truth is that it’s only controversial among the small percentage of Australians who want it to be.
Commenting on the recent poll which was commissioned by her organisation, the Institute of Public Affairs’ Bella d’Abrera said that “mainstream Australians are fundamentally optimistic and positive about Australia and its values”.
So they should be. Australia has come a long way since 1788, and we have much to be thankful for, even as we strive for better outcomes in Aboriginal communities. The Judeo-Christian values that underpin modern Australia have been an unspeakable blessing, and they remain a legacy worth preserving.
No matter who we are, where we live or what our circumstances are, we share this home. And we need every opportunity we can find to strengthen the bonds that hold us together.
So happy Australia Day, and see you out there in the sun!
Image by Weekend Notes.