I just don’t feel the same about Australia Day any more. I used to enjoy it as a day celebrating how happy I was to live in this great country, with the way we spent the day highlighting some of those things – enjoying one of Queensland’s beautiful beaches, and the sun, surf and sand before heading home to bbq some lamb.
But in recent years it’s become increasingly obvious that celebrating Australia Day on January 26 is not something that all Australian’s can engage in, and in fact it’s a date that has incredibly negative connotations for Aboriginal Australians.
No doubt this year, as there have been for quite a number of years, there will be plenty of words written bemoaning the fact that we can’t all just come together and enjoy the day, but it’s pretty clear that’s never going to happen so long as January 26 is the date in question.
On so many other fronts in our lives we take the view that it doesn’t matter whether you think what you have said or done is offensive, if another party is offended by your actions then it’s just basic good manners to acknowledge that and modify your behaviour. So why can’t we do the same here? January 26 is a date that reflects a particularly dark moment in our history that is really challenging to associate with any kind of celebration, not just for Indigenous people but for any Australian who knows and embraces this country’s history. Many people have suggested we pick another date without any of the baggage that will genuinely allow us all to come together and celebrate what makes our country such a wonderful place to live, and I’d love to see us move forward and engage in a genuine national conversation on the topic.
I don’t think there are too many Australians whose Australia Day celebrations are deeply tied to the landing date of the First Fleet, I know none that I’ve been involved in ever have, instead they focus on the lifestyle that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, created by the combination of all of the different cultures who have come together in this country filled with opportunity. Let’s face it, it’s only since 1994 that Australia Day has actually been celebrated on the actual date of January 26, before that we just used to take the closest Monday off to make a long weekend.
So this Australia Day I’ll still reflect on how glad I am to live here, but my heart will hope that it won’t be long before we can move those celebrations to a more inclusive date, that better matches the way the majority of Australians think and behave today.