Make Oz Day a celebration of the future, not the past

p2301-Hal-DuellLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – In the aftermath of another Australia Day and the protests that now accompany it, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the event and its timing.

 

First, I like Australia having a day set aside as a public holiday just to celebrate the fact of Australia. Most nations have their own equivalent. I think it would be a mistake to abandon ours.

 

But if January 26 with all its history and baggage is too controversial, when would be an acceptable alternative?

 

January, at the beginning of the new year, seems to me to be a good month for it, and the end of January corresponds with the end of the summer holiday season and the beginning of a new school and working year.

 

So, what about the last Monday in January? The day can be fixed even if the date changes. After all, the Melbourne Cup is always run on the first Tuesday in November.

 

And perhaps we should get away from making Australia Day about the past. We have other holidays for that, Anzac Day being the main one. Instead let’s make it about the present with eyes on the future.

 

Hal Duell (pictured)

Alice Springs

 

 

 

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18 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. David
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    @ Ted. That is correct about January 1, 1901, Aboriginal people were deemed to be a sub species not worth inclusion.
    The large gathering of Aboriginal people at Uluru called for recognition of Aboriginal people in the constitution. Completely ignored.
    There needs to be some acceptance of truth about the past history of this country, not denial.
    It’s about realism, not apartheid that people keep trotting out, regardless of what date is considered as Australia Day.

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  2. Posted February 1, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    It’s a moot point – recent surveys (such as reported in The Conversation’s “New research reveals our complex attitudes to Australia Day”) reveal there is overwhelming support for January 26 as Australia Day in all states and territories (intriguingly highest in WA).
    This debate is just spinning round in circles.

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  3. Posted February 1, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    @ Ted. Good point, I grant you that. If the 1st January is not suitable, then which date would you suggest?
    @ Hal. Yes, I had understood your line on Anzac Day as a suggested date, but not out of malice.
    I return to my basic argument, as previously stated: That an appropriate date for Australia Day needs to have historical relevance to an event of national importance, a significant event that symbolises unity and that is acceptable to the majority, including our First Australians.

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  4. Ted Egan
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    1 January 1901 was the day the new Australian Federation legislated that “Aboriginal natives of Australia shall not be counted” in the Census: They were deemed to be a sub-species. An inauspicious start?

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  5. Hal Duell
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    Domenico: Please stop misquoting me. I do not and have not suggested Anzac Day be also known as Australia Day.
    “If (IF!) we want a national day to celebrate our coming of age in the crucible of war, Anzac Day amply suffices.”
    No one, myself included, has suggested we meld that day into Australia Day.
    You are doing your argument no favours by resorting to underhanded and misleading rhetorical tricks.

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  6. Surprised!
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I’m with Janet Brown on this. She puts it succinctly and eloquently.

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  7. Posted February 1, 2019 at 9:44 am

    @ Jan: I agree with all that you say but I’d love to know if you have any particular date in mind.
    @ Hal: I believe your suggestion of Anzac Day as Australia’s National Day would meet more public resistance than our present date which, despite what you say, is being met with growing resistance, year upon year.
    Anzac Day is founded upon a specific date and marks a specific historic event; something that actually happened, not a date that happens to be convenient or practical. The 25th of April (1915) marks the first landing on the shores of Gallipoli by predominantly Australian and New Zealand troops, and signifies our country’s first major military action of the First World War. Interestingly, these troops included Maori and Indigenous Australians, even though they were not officially able to enlist.
    All I have been saying is that whatever date is finally accepted for Australia Day, it needs to have historical relevance to an event of national importance, a significant event that symbolises unity and that is acceptable to the majority, including our First Australians.

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  8. Hal Duell
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Domenico: Perhaps we need to think again on what constitutes an acceptable national day, or day of unity.
    We already have a designated Federation Day, but does anyone really pay much attention to it? And falling as it does on the day after the global party of New Year’s Eve makes it hard to imagine it becoming anything more than what it already is.
    If we want a national day to celebrate our coming of age in the crucible of war, Anzac Day amply suffices.
    My suggestion of the last Monday in January was mostly to offer a minimal alternative to January 26, which will never be accepted by many.
    Following comments to my letter, I am coming around to the idea of September 1, or Wattle Day.
    It is politically neutral, it is the first day of Spring, it celebrates the green and gold, and it allows for the participation of schools and school children.
    Not a bad combination when celebrating the present and looking to the future.

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  9. Jan Martin
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 8:28 am

    I think guys you are all missing my point.
    Federation even nationhood are all foreign European constructs and none of them recognised that the First Australians were already here with a highly complex culture spanning 66+ thousand years.
    Songlines criss-crossed this country more complex than present day road maps.
    It is Europeans who persist in imposing their values on them without recognising the enormity of what they have got.
    Theirs is the secret of longevity, of living as one, part of the land, while so called civilisations have crumbed and died.
    Australia Day will never be a true Australia Day until what the First Australians have got to offer is appreciated and recognised … sigh!
    That is why I think Australia needs a new Australia Day that is inclusive of them and the beautiful country we call home … sigh!

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  10. Domenico Pecorari
    Posted February 1, 2019 at 12:35 am

    @ Hal: You miss my point.
    It could be argued that every country celebrates its national day “with eyes on the future” but the date upon which it is celebrated by definition relates to the past, the date on which the nation was formed, was united or won its independence.
    The 26th of January simply does not meet the criteria.

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  11. Paul Parker
    Posted January 31, 2019 at 10:27 am

    The logical and legitimate historical relevance is that Australia became an independent self-governing Commonwealth nation with Federation on January 1, 1901.
    Our formal functions need to stick with the first Federation timetable, nothing before noon, as logical to enable majority recover from their New Year celebrations in time to attend and enjoy.

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  12. Janet Brown
    Posted January 31, 2019 at 9:11 am

    Appeasement is not the answer. Appeasement is the catalyst for further division.
    January 26 is the date chosen to celebrate our place in the world.
    People from around the world choose our country to call home. Because we are amazing. Australians are proud of our home. The division based on race is not Australian. That is apartheid. We need to stop this vile hatred of Australia now.
    Australia Day is not up for destruction by an angry and racist group.

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  13. Jan Martin
    Posted January 31, 2019 at 1:16 am

    I agree with you Hal and I agree with Bob Taylor too.
    The idea of Wattle Day, September 1, the first day of spring, as a suitable alternative Australia Day has been around a while.
    It could be made the first Monday in September and it would occur in the school term.
    Something schools and students could really get into. A harmonious day celebrating our national colours of green and gold.
    The spring blossoming of hope for the future, new life, love, belonging and responsibility to this beautiful country we call home.
    There could still be Australia Day honours recognising the contributions of people to our country and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new Australians into the fold … and while we are at it, I would change our national anthem to The Seekers’ song celebrating the diversity of stories of where we have come from: “I am, you are, we are Australian”.
    It would still celebrate the past the present and the future, just without all the negative flag waving First Fleet enactment bullshit.
    I think its time to drop it. I don’t think what happened as a result of colonisation to the Indigenous peoples of Australia or to the natural environment are things we as Australians should be proud of. My tuppence worth, hey 🙂

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  14. James T Smerk
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Moving the date is a waste of time and not a fix. The protest seem to be more about the events of the past regardless of the date.
    The subject has been hijacked to be about the so called white colonisation of this land rather than everyone coming together to celebrate as one.

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  15. Hal Duell
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Domenico: “… with eyes on the future.” (What I said) is a bit different than “celebrate the future” (how you read it).
    Federation Day is indeed on January 1, but to ask people to come together the day after the night before, or New Year’s Eve?
    As an intelligent man, surely you can see how that, while factually correct, is an impracticable solution.

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  16. Posted January 30, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    @ Domenico Pecorari (Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:05 am): I once held the same opinion, Domenico, that January 1 is a more suitable date to be ascribed as “Australia Day” because it is the anniversary date of the commencement of Federation.
    In fact, that was my reasoning in letters I wrote to Chief Minister Steve Hatton in December 1987 and to Marshall Perron in February 1990; in my first letter suggesting the NT Government institute the practice of observing January 1 as “Australian Federation Day”, and in the second to suggest that the NT Government aim for January 1, 2001, as the target date for achieving statehood for the NT.
    This later became the objective of the NT Statehood campaign initiated by Marshall Perron in 1994 and culminated in the referendum loss on October 3, 1998.
    It’s only in more recent times I became aware that Captain Arthur Phillip, the commander of the First Fleet no less, was well aware of the long-term significance of establishing the first European colony at Sydney Cove: “Yultide is almost upon us and my hope is by no means exhausted despite the difficulties met with; given time, and additional force, together with proper people for cultivating the land … I know now that I can make a nation.”

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  17. Bob Taylor
    Posted January 30, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Hal: I agree Australia Day should be about the future, however most of the protesters would appear to be focused on the past.
    Also on a positive note, a lot of our new Australians start their future as Australian citizens on Australia Day.
    As far as the date is concerned we need to do more to include our children; our future.
    We can do that by holding Australia Day during the school term, then the children can be more involved formally and informally in any community celebration.

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  18. Posted January 30, 2019 at 10:05 am

    @ Hal. As an intelligent man, you would have to accept that no-one can escape their past and that declaring a date that “celebrates the future” would be a world first, and for good reason – it is a laughable notion.
    Australia Day should indeed be celebrated, but it also needs to have legitimate historical relevance. Most nations celebrate their national day on the date they achieved independence or came together as a nation.
    Australia has such a date, 1st January 1901, when the separate state colonies came together to form a single nation.
    It is also known as Federation Day.
    Perfect, I’d have thought, for anyone advocating a united Australia.

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