Thoughts on Australia day

2 minute read


Today, January 26th, is Australia day.

The day celebrates Australia, and it is a public holiday. The reason the date was chosen is it is the date, in 1788, when the First Fleet arrived in Port Jackson. For many, this date is problematic because of the subsequent ill treatment of the native Aboriginal population.

For this reason, it’s sometimes called Invasion Day.

Racism in Australia

Racism, or bigotry, is the same everywhere. It involves maltreatment of a minority, set apart from the majority by the color of their skin.

The racism in Australia, for me, has a different flavor from the racism in America. The people being bigoted against are different: Australian Aborigines versus African Americans.

Even writing the two down like that shows once difference: Australian Aborigines and African Americans.

The Aborigines put up with the common bigotries of both the African Americans, because of their skin color, and the Native Americans, because of their different culture and incumbency. I realize that, for many in America, the two bigotries are intertwined: The first paths to freedom taken by runaway slaves led to Native American villages. However, for me, this doesn’t come through as clearly as the connection does for Aborigines.

However, just because the bigotry is different in flavor doesn’t mean the outcomes are much different.

In Tasmania, Australia’s island state, the native people were systematically slaughtered.

In Queensland, the state I grew up in, there was a massacre of an estimated 200 Aborigines in 1888.

Wikipedia has a long list. Too long.

Change the date campaign

Because of the association of January 26th with invasion, there is a movement to change the date of Australia Day to a less contentious one. Australia is worth celebrating, but January 26th isn’t.

Midnight Oil headed by ex-MP Peter Garrett has a song about it.

But to what?

The biggest issue with changing the date of Australia Day is : what to?

It wasn’t until 1994 that it was marked consistently as a public holiday by all Australian States and Territories. So it’s not that recent.

Even Australia was only proclaimed a separate country on January 1st, 1901 under Queen Victoria.

So, that’s the first candidate for a new Australia Day: New Year’s Day.

And that’s the problem with that date: we already celebrate the start of a new year on that date.

There are many others.

One that I like is Wattle Day: September 1st. This is the day to celebrate Australia’s national plant, the wattle. The green and yellow flowers of the wattle are where Australia derives its sporting colors from.

My favorite

My favorite suggestion is different. It’s not particularly significant of any event that occurred on that date in the past. It’s more of a joke, really.

My suggestion is May 8th.

Simply because it sounds like the Australianism: