Usually from the middle to the end of January, our newsfeeds are often clogged up with different opinions on when Australia Day should be. You have one side who think the ‘lefties’ are back at it with their social justice warrior ways, saying that the date does not need to be changed and these ‘lefties’ are just overreacting and making a big deal out of nothing. Then you have the other side (the ‘lefties’) who advocate to change the date of Australia day because it is appalling that such a day that has affected so many native Australians is celebrated like it’s one big party. The day stirs up controversy every year without fail and it’s always the same arguments from both sides. I hear it on the news, at home and online and honestly, it’s getting a tad annoying. Year after year, it’s always the same sort of rhetoric spat out and no real changes have been made. Honestly, I just have to roll my eyes and bang my head against my desk.
But now it’s April, and gone is the hysteria associated with having a couple of beers with the fam around the barbeque whilst Triple J’s top 100 countdown plays in the background. Australia Day is not even a passing thought at the this time of year for most Australians. Hence, that’s why I’ve decided to bring it up. Something I’ve found with a lot of issues is that the controversy usually only lasts a couple of news cycles, if that, and then the media tosses it out and it’s onto the next thing. Many of these ‘controversies’ are usually rights issues, which makes it even more frustrating and leaves marginalised groups on their own again.
I’m a true blue Aussie who’s proud of her European heritage. I’m second generation Australian from my mum’s side and first on my dad’s. I’m not the typical skippy whose family has been living in Australia for generations. When my relatives first came here they experienced racism, being called wogs and being discriminated against because they didn’t have the typical Anglo last name. Even then, I’m proud to come from Australia. My dad insists that I call myself an Australian every time I say I’m Croatian. I’ve even considered getting a southern cross tattoo to which a number of my friends have called me a bogan for having such a thought. I mean, I’m planning on representing this country at the Olympic Games.
I would love more than anything to have a day where we can celebrate Australia and realise how lucky we are to be living in such a wicked country. I’d love to don the green and gold (like I do the red and white checkers) and wave around an Aussie flag, watching the fireworks and singing along to I am Australian and Horses like an utter dork.
But I can’t.
I physically and mentally cannot bring myself to get caught up in the festivities of January 26th. I’m proud to be Australian, but I’m not proud that we celebrate being Australian on a day that has so heavily affected the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Mate, I reckon we should change the date. I don’t know when, but to another day that doesn’t have such negative connotations in the Indigenous community.
It’s just a date, some say. It was over 200 years ago, others say. The Indigenous people need to get over it, another group says. If it wasn’t for the British, there’d still be kangaroos hopping down Flinders Street, more say.
A) It’s not just a date.
B) And? You’re not allowed to remember the past? Oh wait, maybe that’s only when it suits you.
C) Tell that to the Jewish community and the Holocaust. Tell that to the countless of other groups who remember and will never forget the things their ancestors had to the go through.
D) It’s true that the British brought progression to Australia. It’s also true that immigration has enabled Australia to progress to what it has become today. That, however, is not a valid excuse for not changing the date of Australia day. That still doesn’t overshadow the number of Indigenous Australians slaughtered on that day, let alone the oppressive laws that have followed. Sure, Indigenous Australians aren’t perfect- but is anybody? Everyone has issues and it’s unfair to just pinpoint a specific group and use their flaws against them.
When this argument pops up every single year in January, some people miss the point. They think the Change the Date movement is saying we shouldn’t celebrate Australia Day.
The word change means to make different or to use another instead of. It doesn’t mean to not celebrate Australia at all. It means to, quite literally, use another date to celebrate Australia Day instead of January 26th. I don’t know how I could put that any simpler.
Then there’s the argument of tradition and how for decades Australia Day has been celebrated on the 26th of January. Well actually, the 26th of January has only been a public holiday since 1994. So much for decades.
One of the most common arguments regarding Change the Date is that it won’t change anything. It’s not going to solve all the issues that Indigenous Australians face. It’s not going to change the past. It’s not a big deal.
No, it won’t solve all the issues. It’s not going to change the past. Nothing can change the past. But changing the date is a step in the right direction. It’ll indicate that this country is as respectful to cultures as it’s supposed to be. It’s an ounce of relief for so many Indigenous Australians.
And besides, if it’s not such a big deal then what’s the big deal in changing it? If it’s no biggie, then why are you so adamant to keep the date? It’s just a “date” afterall. What’s it to you, the average person, if it’s on the 26th of January or May 8th? It won’t affect you at the end of the day, but it’s a small reward for Indigenous Australians.
No, this isn’t white person’s guilt. I personally, nor my ancestors, have anything to do with the First Fleet. I have nothing to do with imperialism and the like. As someone whose family has experienced the horrors of war, I wouldn’t appreciate people getting rowdy on days where so many people’s lives had changed forever.
Look mate, all I’m saying is that we should just change the date of Australia Day. Australia Day is supposed to be about coming together as a nation and unite as one, but that doesn’t happen and it’s understandable why. Yeah sure, there are always going to be unhappy people- but changing the date is a step in the right direction, even if it seems like a minor detail.