Australia Day is the official national day of Australia, held on 26 January every year. This date marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
It is meant to be a day for celebrating what it means to be Australian, but in recent years, tensions have risen as the divisive debate surrounding the actual date of Australia Day has increased. At the heart of the debate is the actual meaning of the day.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see 26 January as a day of sorrow and mourning. The foundation of the first settler colony in New South Wales also commenced the beginning of the dispossession and marginalisation of Indigenous Australians. To them, Australia Day currently marks the day their land was invaded and stolen from them.
Others consider it the day to celebrate the culture, lifestyle and achievements of our nation. They believe the date is of historical significance, as it marks the moment of unification between our British founders and Indigenous peoples. They see it as the beginning of the Australia we know today.
Earlier this year, The Australian Institute released a poll asking Australians their opinion about the current date of the national celebration. The poll revealed that 49 per cent of participants agree that Australia Day should not be held on a date that is offensive to Indigenous Australians. A further 56 per cent stated they don’t care what date it is held, so long as there is a day of national celebration.
Currently, Australia Day is not an occasion that all Australians accept and enjoy. With a very diverse and multicultural population, Australia Day should be a day of celebration, not of mourning. It should unite us, not divide us.
If the majority of the population doesn’t mind when Australia Day is, shouldn’t we just change the date?