New research reveals our complex attitudes to Australia Day



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It may be that the fortnight or so surrounding Australia Day is evolving into an annual season in which some of the deepest paradoxes of Australian identity play out in public.
AAP/Glenn Campbell

Darren Pennay, Australian National University and Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

In the cultural warfare over whether January 26 should be retained as Australia Day, survey results are deployed like guided missiles. But what do Australians really think about the continuing debate?

A recent study undertaken by the Institute of Public Affairs found that three-quarters of Australians agreed that Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26.

In a survey taken late last year, before the annual Australia Day debate commenced, the Social Research Centre asked members of its Life in Australia research panel a similar question:

To what extent do you agree or disagree that 26 January is the best day for our national day of celebration?

And from the 2,167 responses, it received similar results: 70% of respondents agreed (37% strongly agreed/33% agreed).

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But this is where the story becomes interesting.

Support for 26 January increases with age. It is 73% for Generation X (39-53 years) and 80% among Baby Boomers (54-72 years). Among the Silent Generation (73 years or older), support for January 26 is nearly unanimous (90%). But it is notably lower among the younger generations at 47% and 58% for Generation Z (aged 23 years or younger) and Millennials (24-38 years).

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These results may explain why the ABC shifted its Triple J Hottest 100 away from 26 January after taking a poll in which 60% of the 65,000 who voted supported the move.




Read more:
Henry Reynolds: Triple J did the right thing, we need a new Australia Day


Support was also lower among those with a university degree (55%) compared to those without (75%). In terms of geography, support for January 26 was highest in Western Australia (83%) and lowest in Victoria (65%), and higher in the regions (78%) than the capital cities (66%). These results seem consistent with what we know about the patterns of progressive and conservative political values in Australia.

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There are stark differences according to party affiliation. Support is highest among Coalition (85%) and One Nation (94%) supporters compared with 62% of Labor supporters and just 38% among Greens. On these results, perhaps the federal Labor Party’s present support for Australia Day might eventually come under pressure from within.

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Those who disagreed that January 26 was the best day for our national celebration were asked:

On which day do you think Australia should have its national day?

Ten options were offered or an alternative could be nominated.

Reconciliation Day on May 27 – the anniversary of the 1967 referendum – was the most popular alternative at 24%. It was followed by January 1, Federation Day (18%). Somewhat bizarrely, 15% of those opposed to January 26 being the date nominated May 8, because it sounds like “mate”. At present, no date clearly stands out as a popular alternative to January 26 as Australia Day.

To gain a better insight into what January 26 actually means to Australians, we then asked a series of questions to explore which aspects of Australia’s culture and heritage were most strongly associated with Australia Day.




Read more:
Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds


Just over two-thirds (68%) of respondents agreed that January 26 celebrated our British culture and heritage. 63% believed the current timing was a celebration of our democracy and system of government. And 58% believed it celebrated the contribution of all immigrants to Australia.

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The view that Australia Day recognised the contribution of all immigrants to Australia received stronger endorsement from those born overseas (65%) than the Australian born (55%). This suggests that the long-standing official Australia Day emphasis on unity in diversity has to some extent spoken to their sense of belonging. There is no other date in the Australian calendar that could be considered to represent the contribution of migrant communities.

The association of Australia Day and British culture and heritage was highest in New South Wales (73%). This possibly reflects the particular significance of January 26 for the history of that state, but it is still below the levels observed in the Australian Capital Territory – 81% – and the Northern Territory – 77%. The association with British culture and heritage is highest amongst Coalition and One Nation supporters, at 73% and 71% respectively. For the Silent Generation, the celebration of Australia Day on 26 January is particularly evocative of British culture and heritage: more than four out of five agreed.

Official proponents of Australia Day have fudged the association of January 26 and Britishness as far back as the 1988 Bicentenary. They have more often emphasised diversity and belonging. Yet, fewer respondents accepted that the day was a celebration of migrant contributions relative to its association with British heritage.

In a similar vein, only a minority – although a large one (40%) – believed January 26 celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. This proposition is rejected most strongly by Labor and Greens supporters, those living in the capitals and the young.

Yet perhaps the most striking of all our findings is that 45% of respondents agreed the day was offensive to Indigenous Australians. This figure is higher than that found in an Australia Institute poll of January 2018, which put the figure at 37%.

The survey also found that women (49%) are more likely than men (42%) to see things this way, possibly reflecting the modern pattern for women to have more progressive political views. Those with a university degree (59%), Victorians (51%) and capital city residents (48%) were also more likely to hold this opinion. And the party divide on this issue is clear. Labor and Greens (50% and 75%) supporters are much more likely to agree than Coalition and One Nation voters (32% and 12%).

Nearly three in ten (29%) of respondents who agree with having Australia Day on January 26 also recognise the date is offensive to Indigenous people. It seems that many of us are sensitive to their objections, but not concerned enough to want to change the date. Australians incorporate in their historical consciousness a range of perspectives on the Australian past, and their significance for present-day commemoration, even when they are apparently in conflict with one another.




Read more:
First reconciliation, then a republic – starting with changing the date of Australia Day


So what factors are at play here? One school of thought is that many Australians are mindful of the day’s negative connotations, but place a high value on it because it is an important marker in the calendar. The attachment to this last summer public holiday before the school year starts possibly outweighs concern about offence. Previous research has shown that when people were asked to associate three words with Australia Day, the favourites were “barbecue”, “celebration” and “holiday”.

Still, the mix of attitudes we have uncovered seems likely to ensure the day remains contentious. Any expectation that January 26 might perform a similar kind of civic function to July 4 (Independence Day) in the United States or July 14 (Bastille Day) in France is fanciful.

It may be that the fortnight or so surrounding Australia Day is evolving into an annual season in which some of the deepest paradoxes of Australian identity play out in public.The Conversation

Darren Pennay, Campus Visitor, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University and Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cave rescue heroes share Australian of the Year



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Two heroes of the Thai cave rescue, Craig Challen and Richard Harris, are joint Australian of the Year for 2019.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The two Australian divers who gripped the public imagination for their part in the dramatic rescue of a Thai boys soccer team have shared the Australian of the Year award.

Dr Richard Harris, an anaesthetist from Adelaide and Dr Craig Challen, a retired vet from Perth, long-time diving companions, worked as part of the international team that, against the odds, brought the 12 boys and their coach to safety.

The members of the Wild Boars team entered the caves on June 23 last year, only to be trapped by floodwater. In the staged rescue, the last boys and the coach reached safety on July 10.

The two Australians were preparing to go on a cave-diving holiday when their help was sought.

“Richard’s medical experience was key in the plan to get the children out of the caves,” the Australia Day Council said.

“After swimming through the narrow cave system to assess the health of those trapped and giving the medical all-clear for each evacuee, he administered an anaesthetic to each to enable their rescue.

“Richard was key to the mission’s success, remaining in the cave system until the last evacuee was safe.

“Craig’s technical expertise was critical to the rescue. He played a leading role, working 10 to 12 hours each day in extremely dangerous conditions to swim the children one-by-one through the dark and narrow flooded caves”.

Chair of the council, Danielle Roche, said that the two men “placed the safety of others above their own and inspired hope when hope seemed lost. Their selflessness, courage and willingness to help others in a time of need typifies the Australian spirit.”

In other awards announced at a ceremony in Canberra on Friday evening:

  • The senior Australian of the Year is Dr Suzanne Packer, 76, from
    Canberra, a retired paediatrician. Among her many activities promoting
    children’s health, safety and rights, she has been involved in child
    abuse prevention and an advocate for the importance of the creation of
    child-friendly spaces in hospitals.

  • The Young Australian of the Year is Danzal Baker, 22, an Indigenous
    rapper, musician and dancer from the Northern Territory.

“Working across rap, dance, acting and visual art, Danzal Baker is an
inspiration to indigenous youth,” the council said. “A multi-talented,
multi-lingual indigenous artist, Danzal, otherwise known as Baker Boy,
is the first Indigenous artist to achieve mainstream success rapping
in the Yolngu Matha language”.

  • The Local Hero award was presented to Kate and Tick Everett from
    Katherine in the Northern Territory.

After the death of their teenage daughter Amy “Dolly” Everett a year
ago, following extensive bullying, they founded Dolly’s Dream, to
raise awareness about the devastating impact bullying can have on
children and their families,

The council said the Everetts’ “non-stop advocacy” had resulted in
governments acting to prevent childhood bullying.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We’re awarding the Order of Australia to the wrong people


Nicholas Gruen, University of Technology Sydney

It’s almost Australia Day and hundreds of us are in line for an award.

Sadly, as unpublished research by my firm Lateral Economics reveals, many will get it for little more than doing their job. And the higher the job’s status, the higher the award.

Governors General, High Court Justices and Vice Chancellors of major universities would hope for the highest Companion of the Order (AC). Professors, public service departmental heads and senior business people should hope for the next one down – an Officer of the Order (AO). School Principals would generally slot in next for Members of the Order (AM).

If you’re lucky, or you’ve done your job extraordinarily well, you’ll be promoted one rank, but that’s pretty much it.

We reward most the already rewarded

Meanwhile, those who succeed in some achievement principally in and for their community usually qualify for the lowest award, if that; the Medal of the Order (OAM). And usually only if they’ve become conspicuous.

The level of gratitude among recipients seems to follow an equal and opposite arc. Those at the bottom seem the most thrilled for being recognised the least.

Distinction in putting others first gets short shrift. As Anne Summers lamented in 2013:

Seven years ago I nominated a woman I admire for an Australian honour. It took two years but it came through and she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for a lifetime of work with victims of domestic violence. I was disappointed she had not been given a higher award – I had hoped for an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) at the very least – but she was thrilled and so was her family.

Money, fame and status are nothing to be sneezed at if they are honestly earned. But they are their own reward. Why should they beget other rewards?

We could be putting awards to use

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we award honours to encourage people to do more than their job? In a world that is lavishing increasing rewards on the “haves”, the worldly rewards for doing your job need little bolstering.

Knowing awards are reserved for people who do more than their jobs might encourage us to choose more selfless and socially committed lives at the outset of our careers.

There’s a hunger among the young to do just that – to combine good, privately rewarding careers with serving their community and tackling social ills.

If honours are “the principal means by which the nation officially recognises the merit of its citizens” as the 2011 Government House review put it, I’d like to use it to encourage those people the most.

Wouldn’t it be more consistent with Australian values?

It’d make them more Australian

Government House provides online biographies of all those awarded honours. Lateral Economics sampled about half of them back to 2013 looking specifically at the gender division of honours and the extent to which those biographies included descriptions of work done without personal gain.

Barely more than a quarter of Order of Australia recipients recorded voluntary work in their biographies.

And those that did were more likely to be near the bottom of the awards ladder.

More than a third of those receiving the very bottom award, the OAM, were engaged in obviously selfless work, compared with a fifth at the top (just two out of ten ACs).

Still we may be making a little progress. Perhaps spurred by sentiments such as those expressed by Anne Summers, last year saw a higher percentage of women than in any previous year. Unusually, six women got the top honour, the AC, compared with four men, and the proportion with voluntary service broke through the 30% barrier for the first time.

I wonder what Australia Day will bring. I’m thinking that, whatever it is, we can do a lot better, for our community, and our country.


Thanks to Shruti Sekhar for research assistance.The Conversation

Nicholas Gruen, Adjunct Professor, Business School, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Rough seas ahead: why the government’s James Cook infatuation may further divide the nation



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The Morrison government has committed $50million to celebrate next year’s 250th anniversary of Cook’s landing at Kurnell on April 29, 1770.
AAP/Marc McCormack

Benjamin T. Jones, CQUniversity Australia

It is fitting that Scott Morrison represents the federal division of Cook, named after British explorer James Cook. First as treasurer, and now as prime minister, Morrison is committed to a A$50 million plan to celebrate the upcoming 250th anniversary of Cook’s landing at Kurnell on April 29, 1770. He has announced A$6.7million for a replica of the Endeavour to circumnavigate the country (something Cook himself never did).

Cook and his treatment by public memory can be seen as the latest front in an ongoing culture war. It is a debate centred on how Australian history – especially its colonial history – should be understood. Which voices and stories should be included, and excluded, from the dominant narrative?

Morrison frames this is as an extension of the campaigns to change January 26 as Australia Day. In 2018, he lambasted the “indulgent self-loathing” of those who wanted to change the date. He tweeted – incorrectly – that “Our modern Aus nation began on January 26, 1788”. This predates the flag, Constitution, five out of six states, and even the word “Australia”.

But this was never about historical accuracy. Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie claimed – also wrongly – that January 26, 1788, was “when Captain Cook stepped ashore”. He actually died in 1779. But nevertheless, as the man who claimed Australia for Britain, Cook has become a symbol of settler-colonialism with his legacy intertwined with Australia Day.

Morrison is determined that 2020 be a year of government-led celebration of Cook’s exploits. The justification for the anniversary spend is as much ideological as historical. Morrison claimed:

he gets a bit of a bad show from some of those who like to sort of talk down our history.

Explorer James Cook has come to symbolise Australia’s divided view of its history and how it should be celebrated.
Shutterstock

The use of public money to cast Cook in a positive light is a continuation of the “history wars” that flared up during the prime ministership of John Howard. He rejected the “black armband” view that saw Australian history as a “disgraceful story”. On balance, Howard insisted, it was one of “heroic achievement”.

For Morrison, Cook is the embodiment of a colonial hero whose reputation has been tarnished by left-wing “activists”. He laments that “it’s very trendy to talk down James Cook and all that sort of stuff”.

Presumably “all that sort of stuff” is a gentle euphemism for dispossession and the destruction of Indigenous cultures.




Read more:
Australia’s ‘history wars’ reignite


Debate over Cook’s legacy briefly raged in 2017. Indigenous journalist Stan Grant questioned the plaudit, “discovered this territory 1770”, etched in stone at Cook’s statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Soon after, “change the date” was spray-painted on the base.

The then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, insisted Grant was “dead wrong”. Using rhetoric that bordered on the ridiculous, Turnbull took to Facebook to describe the graffiti as part of a “totalitarian campaign”. He also dismissed calls to change the date of Australia Day, condemning the “Stalinist exercise of trying to wipe out or obliterate or blank out parts of our history”.

The Morrison government’s decision to punish councils that do not acknowledge January 26, to introduce dress codes at citizenship ceremonies, to refuse to discuss the date of Australia Day, and to spend millions on Cook’s 250th anniversary, all stem from the same culture war.

The Liberal Party’s Twitter page claims it is trying to “protect Australia Day from activists”. But the heavy-handed attempts to cast Cook as some high priest in the church of Australian nationalism stifles debate and skews history. Increasing social unease with traditional colonial narratives is not based on a desire to deny history, but to expand it and to include the perspective of First Nations.

As historian Mark McKenna notes, the communities in Kurnell and Cooktown have worked hard to connect with Indigenous leaders and find new ways to commemorate Cook’s voyage. But crucially, this requires a willingness to accepts history’s nuances and diversity. It requires moving beyond the false dichotomy of utter shame or complete pride in Australia’s history.

Few would dispute that Cook was a brilliant navigator and explorer. But there is also a question of balance. The Captain Cook Society notes that he is commemorated by more than 100 memorials, many in Australia. It is hardly a “Stalinist exercise” to suggest that Cook is already well honoured and that a more worthy project might be a new Indigenous museum.

The original lyrics to Advance Australian Fair boasted that when “gallant Cook from Albion sailed … true British courage bore him on”. Veneration of Cook has been historically tied to British patriotism. As the Sydney Morning Herald noted in 1929, Australia’s great patriotic moments for “all who share British blood” occur in April. It included in this, Cook’s landing, the landing at Gallipoli, St George’s Day, and the birth of Shakespeare.

Our nation has changed.

Cook is no longer the national hero he once was, for the simple reason that Australians no longer see themselves as British, sharing in British achievements. More importantly, since W.E.H. Stanner’s call to end the “great Australian silence” in 1968, Australians have become more aware of the ancient cultures that possessed this land at least as far back as the Pleistocene. Retreating into the lazy “cult of forgetfulness” with a government-promoted, triumphant Cook narrative, narrows a history that has been slowly broadening for decades.




Read more:
Friday essay: the ‘great Australian silence’ 50 years on


The anniversary in 2020 of Cook’s voyage can and should be marked. But without genuine consultation with First Nations peoples to find a form and language that offers respect, it will be another exercise in exclusion. If the memorials and events suggest, in former prime minster Tony Abbott’s words, that before the British arrived Australia was “barely settled”, we will know we have failed yet again.The Conversation

Benjamin T. Jones, Lecturer in History, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Liberals stir the culture war pot but who’s listening?


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

As a new round of the culture wars bubbles, West Australian Liberal
senator Dean Smith has urged that we should legislate to “protect” the January 26 date of Australia Day.

Smith came to national prominence as one of the small coterie of
Liberals who forced the Turnbull government to act on same-sex
marriage. He advances his causes with moderation and respect, and
always warrants a hearing. But in this instance he does not make a convincing argument.

Australia Day’s date – which marks the First Fleet’s landing – has
become increasingly contentious in recent years, opposed by Indigenous and other critics on the grounds that it is really “invasion day”.

If we were starting again, I think it would be better to
have Australia Day on January 1, to celebrate the birth of the
Commonwealth.

But given the present date has strong community support, there is not
a compelling case for change. Equally, there isn’t a case to bake in
the current date either. (This date, incidentally, only appears in
legislation as a public holiday.)

In an opinion piece in Thursday’s Australian Smith writes: “Australia Day
remains unprotected and could easily fall victim to the whims of a
political party or special interest lobby group interested in
political point-scoring rather than celebrating the virtues of a
contemporary and forward-looking Australia.”

He proposes legislation to “guarantee that January 26 ceases to be
Australia Day only after the Australian people have been consulted
directly, and that to change the date of Australia Day an alternative
date must be submitted to every Australian elector.”

In reality, the January 26 date won’t “fall victim” to “whims”. No
government would change it lightly.

An alteration would only happen if there was evidence of a big
shift in community sentiment. Maybe that will come in future years –
if it does, so be it.

Change is certainly not on the cards any time soon. Bill Shorten remains committed
to January 26.

The Coalition has been using the (annual) debate about Australia Day
as political ammunition.

This became a little messy, however, because Warren Mundine, Scott
Morrison’s star candidate for the marginal NSW seat of Gilmore, has
been a forthright advocate of moving Australia Day to January 1.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Morrison’s Gilmore candidate is the man who’s been everywhere


Mundine wrote on January 24, 2017: “The 26th of January is the wrong day to celebrate Australia Day.

“Firstly, Australia wasn’t founded on January 26, 1788. It was founded
on January 1, 1901 …

“Secondly, the tension between commemorating British conquest on the
one hand and celebrating Australian identity and independence on the
other isn’t going away. This isn’t a recent tension drummed up by
Lefties. It’s always been there, even before anyone cared about what
Indigenous people think.”

Despite his new status Mundine is sticking to his view – he’s just
saying now that this is not a priority issue for him. “I’ve got 100
different things in front of that, before I even get to that stage,”
he told a news conference as he stood beside his leader on Wednesday.

He declines to be drawn on his position if he were elected and faced a
Smith private member’s bill. He told The Conversation, “I’ll jump that
hurdle when I get there. At the moment I’m fighting a tough battle to
win the seat.”

As this year’s Australia Day approached Morrison ramped up the nationalistic
and culture war rhetoric in general, and accompanied it with some
controversial actions.

The Liberal Party tweeted: “The Government is taking action to protect Australia Day from activists.”

The government proposes to force local councils to hold citizenship
ceremonies on Australia Day, after the refusal of some to do so.
Councils defying the edict would not be allowed to conduct them at all.

This has come with a recommended dress code for these occasions – no
thongs or board shorts. “I’m a prime minister for standards,” declared
Morrison, to something of a national horse laugh.

Councils have been given to the end of next month to provide feedback.

Morrison has struggled to differentiate himself from Shorten over Australia Day, since
they are at one about the date.

“It’s not good enough to say that you just won’t change it. You’ve got to stand up for it and I’m standing up for it,” he declared. “Bill Shorten will let it fade
away.”

It’s true the level of rhetoric around Australia Day has varied over the years but the notion of it just “fading away” is ridiculous.

This week the debate moved on to Captain Cook, with Morrison’s
announcement of $6.7 million for the Endeavour replica to circumnavigate Australia to mark next year’s 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival and take the story of Cook to 39 communities across the country. (The money is from $48.7 million set aside earlier to mark the anniversary.)

Morrison – who was visiting Cooktown in North Queensland – was
described by Shorten as having a “bizarre Captain Cook fetish”.
(Liberal MP Warren Entsch recalls Morrison’s special interest in Cook
from his days in tourism. In parliament Morrison happens to represent
the seat of Cook.)

The prime minister, who argues that the narrative of Cook can be used as one
pillar for Indigenous reconciliation, hit back by accusing Shorten of
“sneering at Australia’s history”, declaring “you can’t trust this guy
on this stuff”.

He added that “political correctness … is raising kids in our country
today to despise our history”, and alleged that Shorten wanted to
“feed into that”.

For some in the right of the Liberal Party, the culture and history
wars are a continuing preoccupation.

But these issues hover on the fringe of politics in this election
year, even if they do resonate in Hansonland and similar territory.

It mightn’t have been front and centre, but the battle that’s been
going on this week between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his shadow,
Chris Bowen, about the economy, tax policy and the like is a lot more
relevant to most voters than the culture wars and political
correctness.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Forcing Australia Day citizenship ceremonies on councils won’t make the issue go away



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The Australia Day debate will likely become more pronounced each year.
from shutterstock.com

Rachel Busbridge, Australian Catholic University and Mark Chou, Australian Catholic University

In the latest instalment of the culture wars surrounding Australia Day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said he plans to force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26. The announcement was spurred on by a few local councils’ decisions to move citizenship events to a different day out of respect for Indigenous people.

Morrison claimed he was protecting the day from those trying to “play politics”. And opposition leader Bill Shorten, as well as others on social media, accused the prime minister of playing politics himself.

Since 2018, as part of a larger ongoing project exploring culture wars and local politics, we have interviewed eleven councils across the country who have taken the most prominent actions relating to January 26. These councils are generally Greens and Labor dominant.

Some, like Yarra and Darebin, ignited a veritable media storm over plans to “dump” Australia Day citizenship ceremonies. Others, such as Flinders Island, have flown largely under the radar.

All of them, however, take seriously the inclusion of Australia’s Indigenous heritage and multicultural diversity in our national day. Our interviews show Morrison’s portrayal of councils “playing politics” is out of step – councils are reflecting the wishes of their community members.




Read more:
Why a separate holiday for Indigenous Australians misses the point


It’s not just citizenship

The cancellation of citizenship ceremonies on January 26 has been a sticking point for the federal government. In 2017, all 537 councils in Australia received a strongly worded letter from assistant immigration minister, Alex Hawke, warning them:

Local councils are now on notice that if they politicise Australian citizenship, the Government will see it as a breach of the [Australian Citizenship Ceremonies] Code and take appropriate action.

But with a couple of notable exceptions, namely Yarra and Darebin councils who had their rights to hold citizenship ceremonies stripped, the other councils we spoke to have refrained from touching the citizenship matter.

Some councils have simply sought to hold alternative events either on or close to January 26 that would be more inclusive of Indigenous communities. Mayor of Byron Shire Council in regional NSW, Simon Richardson, long felt January 26 celebrations divided the local community:

The Arakwal Indigenous mob will come to our events, do the Welcome to Country, but it offends them celebrating on a day that really marks a complete change to their 10,000-year-old culture, I wanted an event where we’re all together.

Wary of the federal government’s warning, other councils did not want to shift citizenship ceremonies from January 26. But they did want to use them as an opportunity to educate Australia’s newest citizens about the country’s history.

Another regional council in NSW, Lismore, has taken efforts to ensure ceremonies held on Australia Day are as inclusive of the local Aboriginal community as possible. And they never refer to the events as a “celebration”.

Diversity of local responses

Local councils sit at the coalface of the communities they serve and must respond to different needs and concerns. As David O’Loughlin, president of the Australian Local Government Association said: “if they’re reflecting their community’s interest, that’s their job.”

Two of the most prominent councils to cancel Australia Day celebrations and ceremonies, Yarra and Darebin in inner Melbourne, were responding to ongoing discussions with local Wurundjeri people who found the date painful and uncomfortable. Former Yarra Mayor, Amanda Stone, told us council knew from these discussions the Wurundjeri felt “this wasn’t a day for [them]” and wanted people to have “an understanding of what the date meant to them”.

Other councils thought it important to lead on decisions relating to January 26. Byron Shire’s plan to shift Australia Day celebrations was motivated by the sentiment non-Indigenous Australians should be the ones driving change. For Mayor Richardson, this was important to ensure that the local Indigenous community did not “cop the backlash when it’s white fellas who have been responsible for the wrongdoing.”

On consultation with the Arakwal people, Richardson said:

Their basic response was ‘leave us out of it, it’s a council issue’. Though they supported the change to our 26 January event, they wanted to make it clear that the idea was council’s, not theirs.

Lismore City Council conducted extensive consultations on changing the date of Australia Day with local communities, the results of which were handed over to the federal government.

And although they still run celebrations and citizenship ceremonies on January 26, Hobart City Council in Tasmania has formally supported the Change the Date campaign in recognition of local Aboriginal views.

The issue is not going away

Despite the different ways in which local councils have handled January 26, there is one thing on which they all agree – the issue is not going to go away.

Former Yarra Mayor Stone, said:

It’s not going to go away for Indigenous people and it’s not going to go away for younger Australians, many of whom haven’t grown up with the racism and attitudes towards Aboriginal people as people my age grew up with.

Some councils, like the Inner West in Sydney, have already seen multiple notices of motion raised. The first, submitted by Greens councillor Tom Kiat, “asking Council to recognise Invasion Day and to reallocate the funds currently designated for their Australia Day event to an Indigenous-led one” was knocked back.

But a few months later, a mayoral minute was passed asking council officers to conduct a “consultation with the local Aboriginal community and the wider community about how the nature of Council’s January 26 events should further evolve to recognise the history of Indigenous Australia.”




Read more:
Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds


Despite speaking to only a small fraction of local councils across the country so far, there is good reason to believe the Australia Day debate will become more pronounced each year.

Some, like Adelaide City Council, have told us in no uncertain terms that the date of our national holiday is a federal matter and beyond their remit. But as more councils debate the matter, it’s clear Australians are starting to think about what it would mean to include Indigenous peoples as equal partners in our national day.

Enforcing citizenship ceremonies on the day is not going to change this, nor is banning boardies and thongs.The Conversation

Rachel Busbridge, Lecturer in Sociology, Australian Catholic University and Mark Chou, Associate Professor of Politics, Australian Catholic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Clarrie Combo, Mrs Brown and Aboriginal soldiers in WW2



File 20180417 30570 1fksnvg.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Yorta Yorta women and girls at the Cummeragunja Reserve in NSW with their knitting for soldiers serving in the second world war.
Australian War Memorial: P01562.001

Kristyn Harman, University of Tasmania

During the second world war, a young Aboriginal soldier, Private Clarrie Combo from New South Wales, exchanged mail with Mrs F. C. Brown from Loxton, South Australia — a white woman whom he had never met.

Very few letters penned by Aboriginal soldiers who served in either of the two world wars survive, yet one of Clarrie’s letters has endured in what might seem a surprising context. Mrs Brown contacted the young soldier after seeing an advertisement calling for volunteers to “adopt” Aboriginal soldiers. His reply was printed in her local newspaper, and its survival provides us with a rare opportunity to learn about military service from an Aboriginal soldier’s perspective.

Private Clarence Combo.
NAA: B883, NX30580

Clarence Combo was born in Wardell, New South Wales, on 14 September 1919. Young Clarrie grew up in a harsh environment — Kinchela Aboriginal Boys’ Training Home near Kempsey. Consistent with government plans to assimilate Aboriginal people into white Australian society, children like Clarrie were forcibly removed from their families. At Kinchela, boys were called by their allocated numbers rather than names. Identities and cultures were stripped away.

In a country where discriminatory legislation and practices precluded Aboriginal people from earning a fair wage, voting, marrying non-Aboriginal partners, buying property or entering a public bar, it is not too difficult to imagine why some young Aboriginal men signed up for the military when war broke out. An estimated 1,000 Aboriginal soldiers served in the Australian Imperial Force as black diggers during the first world war. By the mid-20th century it was easier for Aboriginal men to sign up, so around 3,000 served Australia during WWII.

Comfort funds

Shortly after WWII began, the Melbourne-based Aborigines Uplift Society, founded by non-Aboriginal activist Arthur Burdeu, created a comforts auxiliary for Aboriginal soldiers. The idea was that women could “adopt” an Aboriginal soldier. They would correspond with him and arrange comfort parcels to be sent to him at the front.

In the Society’s August 1940 Uplift newsletter, Burdeu explained how “native women have not the resources to do as their white sisters, though they are already at work”. In Queensland, for example, children at the Purga Aboriginal Mission sewed underpants, toilet tidies, calico bags and hussifs (sewing kits), and knitted socks, mittens and balaclavas. Yorta Yorta women and children at the Cummeragunja Reserve (located in New South Wales) were also involved in knitting for the war effort.

Newspaper advertisements ran across Australia inviting women to contact Burdeu about “adopting” an Aboriginal soldier. With at least one son-in-law serving Australia, Mrs Brown may have felt compassion for those men whose families could not afford to send them parcels.

Corresponding with Mrs Brown

On September 25, 1941 the Murray Pioneer and Australian River Record published one of Clarrie’s letters to Mrs Brown under the headline “Aboriginal’s Appreciative Letter”. Clarrie opened his correspondence with Mrs Brown by thanking her for writing to him. He wrote: “it is very nice of you to write to someone you do not know”. At a practical level, Clarrie advised Mrs Brown that he wore size seven boots, as she had offered to knit socks for him.

Aboriginal’s Appreciative Letter extract.
https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/109261185

The young private’s letter provides a unique perspective on his experiences serving abroad. “I was in action for the first time in Greece,” he told his correspondent. He described Greece as “the nicest country that I have been in since leaving Australia”, then marvelled at having seen snow for the first time.

However the horrors of war included being “attacked practically every day by the German planes”. He told Mrs Brown how “a few of my pals were killed over there … There were German planes in the sky all day long and they were always bombing”.

What’s left out of correspondence can also be telling. In War Dance: A Story of the 2/3 Aust. Inf. Battalion A.I.F., Ken Clift provides an insight into racial attitudes amongst some of the men, telling of an altercation between two Australian soldiers, an Aboriginal one named Clarrie and an Indian or Afghan soldier, Tom. As the men argued heatedly, Tom allegedly called Clarrie: “You black bastard”. Clarrie was said to have retorted, “Well Tom, you’re no bloody glass of milk yourself.” Clarrie’s correspondence with Mrs Brown omits any mention of such tensions.

Welcome home

Over five years’ service, Clarrie’s tours of duty included Egypt, Libya, Greece, Crete, Syria, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and New Guinea. He suffered illness and injuries. In 1941 he caught sandfly fever, an ailment commonly suffered by soldiers fighting in North Africa. His “Proceedings for Discharge” notes that Clarrie received two war injuries, one to his right forearm and the other, a gunshot wound inflicted in New Guinea in June 1945, to his left forearm.

Clarrie’s war experiences included seeing some of his mates injured or killed. He would also have been expected to fire on enemy combatants. However, his correspondence with Mrs Brown, replete with anecdotes about foreign lands and peoples, highlights how being part of Australia’s war effort in the mid-20th century also gave him insights into other places and cultures.

The ConversationFortunately, Clarrie survived the war. He was one of five Aboriginal soldiers welcomed home to Wardell by the Cabbage Tree Island Women’s Guild just before Christmas 1945. By the mid-1960s Clarrie was chairing the Aboriginal Cooperative at Cabbage Tree Island and participating in national conferences advocating equal rights for Aboriginal people.

Kristyn Harman, Senior Lecturer in History; Graduate Research Coordinator, School of Humanities; Course Coordinator, Diploma of History, University of Tasmania

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Women have been neglected by the Anzac tradition, and it’s time that changed



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Australian nurses and patients at the Auxiliary Hospital Unit in Antwerp during the first world war.
Australian War Memorial

Robyn Mayes, Queensland University of Technology

The Anzac legend remains firmly centred on the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign of 1915, and the sacrifice of “sons and fathers” in frontline combat. The place of women in this foundational story is also made clear – that of onlookers and supporters.

In concluding her 2017 dawn service address at Gallipoli, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told a story about Len Hall, one of the original “diggers” who fought at Gallipoli. He is said to have noticed a girl in the crowd who had gathered to farewell departing soldiers, and given her an emu feather that he plucked from his slouch hat. When he returned to Australia at the close of the war, this girl — who later became his wife — was waiting in the crowd to return the feather.

This is a story of hope, and of an ongoing fascination with and idealisation of the “digger”. It is also a story about the passive role of women as waiting mothers, wives and sisters. But women’s contributions are more complicated, varied and controversial than these stories allow.




Read more:
Why China will be watching how we commemorate Anzac Day


Undervalued women’s work

Women were entirely absent from the Gallipoli landings; the only women in the vicinity were nurses serving on hospital ships and in the field hospital in Lemnos. These crucial and dangerous roles as nurses and ambulance drivers were publicly acknowledged in the early Anzac commemorations.

However, as Anzac Day rituals evolved into the current dawn service, veterans’ march, and afternoon celebrations and sporting events, public recognition of this service declined.

Ex-service women are often involved in the Anzac Day March.
Shutterstock

For many years, ex-service women attended Anzac Day marches as spectators or walked in marches without service identification and without mention in the official program. While some were satisfied with this, others were not.

In a 1963 newspaper article the President of the Australian Women’s Army Service shared the group’s experience of “being ignored”. She pointed out they had until then received “less recognition than the boy scouts” (who were officially included in the march).

The Australian Women’s Army Service was actually formed in 1941 to free up men for combat roles. Women performed a wide range of (largely uncelebrated) work, ranging from intelligence analysis to operating fixed gun emplacements in Australia, to working as canteen staff.

In 2002, Annie Leach headed the Perth Anzac Day march on the 100th anniversary of the army’s nursing corps, noting that WA nurses returning from the second world war were largely “a forgotten race”.




Read more:
Mary Beard and the long tradition of women being told to shut up


Challenging core Anzac beliefs

Women have not only had to fight to be recognised for their noncombatant war service, but are also credited with presenting the most serious of all challenges to Anzac core beliefs and rituals. This took the form of non-violent Anzac Day protests seeking to draw public attention to the issue of rape in war, and to oppose the system supporting wars and rape.

In the 1970s and 80s, groups such as the Women Against Rape in War collective bravely staged several such protests around Australia. These protests included the attempted laying of “rape wreaths” during dawn services as a way to mourn women raped in war. This stands in stark contrast to the comforting notion of wartime women waiting safely at home.

Such activity was vilified and indeed punished. In Sydney, 160 women protesters were charged with participating in the Anzac Day march without permission, which they had sought and been refused. As sociologist Catriona Elder has documented in her 2007 book Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity three women were jailed for one month for failing to keep a minimum distance of 400 metres from the end of the Anzac Day parade.

Keepers of the tradition

ABC coverage of the 2017 Gallipoli dawn service reported many people were moved to tears, as evidenced by inclusion of a photograph of a young woman wearing an “Anzac Day” beanie wiping her tears away. Other coverage of Anzac Day 2017 features an image of a woman “watching as people sleep overnight”.

An examination of media coverage of Anzac Day in Perth since the 1980s shows a growing expectation around women’s emotional engagement with, and support for, Anzac Day rituals. It also shows the emergence of an explicit contemporary role for women as guardians of the ongoing relevance and importance of the Day. This includes making sure that the family attends Anzac Day marches.




Read more:
Flies, filth and bully beef: life at Gallipoli in 1915


The ‘modern’ digger

In a contentious move, since the first of January 2013 women currently serving in the ADF have been entitled to take up front line and combat roles while direct entry to these roles has been permitted from January 2016. In 2015, women constituted close to 15% of the deployed force. In 2017 the official definition of “veteran” was revised so that many older service-women will for the first time be officially recognised on Anzac Day 2018 as veterans.

Word is that in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne this year the march will be led by service women.

Even though it is mooted as a “one-off” occurrence, is this a turning point after which women will be more equally recognised for their military service to the nation? Will women veterans be accorded the revered title of “digger”?

The ConversationThe role of women in the Anzac tradition is not just about the “one day” and fair recognition of women’s sacrifice and service; it’s also about how we understand quintessential “Australian” characteristics and the formation of the nation as the preserve of not just men but also women, and not just those who support but also those who challenge.

Robyn Mayes, Senior Research Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Gallipoli commemorations of Turkish youth tell us much about politics in Turkey



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Turkish soldiers in a trench at Gallipoli. The way Turkish youth commemorate the battle tells us much about the country’s politics.
Ausstralian Dept of Veterans Affairs

Brad West, University of South Australia and Ayhan Aktar, Istanbul Bilgi University

With ongoing political instability and security concerns in Turkey, we are again likely to see a smaller turnout of Australians and New Zealanders for Anzac Day ceremonies at Gallipoli this year.

But thousands of Turkish youth will be on the battlefields at dawn. They will be re-enacting the march by the 57th Regiment to the highlands, where Ottoman troops halted the Anzac advance in 1915.




Read more:
How a more divided Turkey could change the way we think about Gallipoli


We undertook fieldwork last Anzac Day on this ritual as part of a proposed larger research project examining how the memory of Gallipoli has become central to tension between Turkish republicans and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The republicans want to protect and restore the secular pro-Western origins of the republic, while the AKP wants to integrate Islam into the nation’s civil institutions and national imagination.

Nowhere is this memory politics more significant than in this re-enactment ritual, which under AKP rule has been renamed the Loyalty March for the 57th Regiment.

While Islamic influence on remembrance rites at Gallipoli has been growing for more than a decade, its political significance has increased dramatically since the July 2016 attempted coup. This has proved to be a transformative event for Turkish politics and society.

The 57th Regiment re-enactment

In the last two decades, Turkish interest in the history of the Gallipoli campaign has grown significantly. It was here that the 57th Regiment came to prominence in Turkish collective memory as the military unit led by Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, later Atatürk.

As founding father of modern Turkey and hero of the war of independence, Mustafa Kemal pushed the 57th Regiment to the highlands, preventing defeat in the campaign.

The origins of the re-enactment are closely tied to this mythology – it was originally known as the 57th Regiment March in the Track of Atatürk. Local university students first organised the commemoration in 2006, partly in response to the increasing number of Australian and New Zealand youth on the battlefields for Anzac Day. For the 90th anniversary the year before, the Anzac Day pilgrimage reached its zenith, with about 17,000 participants.




Read more:
Turkish view remains neglected in our understanding of Gallipoli


The structure adopted for the first 57th Regiment re-enactment largely remains today. It involves an eight-kilometre hike from the regiment’s original base at Bigali village to the highlands of the battlefield. The ritual grew rapidly, with 6,000 participants three years after the first march.

Unsurprisingly, given the march’s popularity, the AKP assumed some control of the re-enactment through the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The government began funding the cost of travel and living expenses for young participants. It also oversees official registration and program co-ordination to cap attendance.

Such oversight allowed for representation of youth from around the country, including a greater percentage of participants from AKP stronghold areas who would otherwise struggle to fund the travel. It is this “pious generation” that the AKP and its leader, Recep Erdoğan, have emphasised as central to AKP’s vision of a new Turkey.

Turkish youth march in a Gallipoli re-enactment.
Ayhan Aktar

Cultural contradictions

Historical re-enactment is about comprehending and experiencing the past as it relates to the ordinary citizen. This commemorative form has proved particularly significant for AKP memory politics by allowing a focus on the martyrdom of 57th Regiment, which suffered heavy casualties.

By providing competition to the traditional heroic saviour narrative of Atatürk at Gallipoli, the AKP has been able to counter the secular pro-Western principles around which he founded the republic. Mandatory prayer sessions have been added at the beginning and end of the march. This has been justified as simulating the actions of the ordinary men who constituted the unit.

This more egalitarian historical focus, which cultural scholars refer to as memory “from below”, gives religion a place in commemorations of Gallipoli. This can also be seen in the increased recognition of individual martyrs through a focus on firsthand accounts of the religious zeal of Turkish soldiers against an infidel invader of their homeland.




Read more:
Turkey, the Armenian genocide and the politics of memory


Changes to the memorial landscape on the battlefields have aided this way of telling history while also promoting religious observance at the site. Fallen Turkish soldiers remained in mass graves after the war, a reflection of the stigma of Ottoman history in republican Turkey.

But, since 2005, Turkish authorities have built 11 cemeteries for the fallen soldiers. These have become popular sites for prayer by the 1 million-plus Turkish visitors to the battlefields per year, in large part funded as social tourism by municipalities. Another 15 cemeteries are proposed, with plans for accompanying outdoor mosques.

The AKP has a vested interest in advancing re-enactment as a commemorative form at Gallipoli, as it provides an opportunity for increased religious references and contexts. To ensure the re-enactment remains popular, though, the AKP has retained much of its original carnival-like character. Participants still take “selfies” and engage in jokes, laughter and joyful conversations while walking.

Political opposition

The recreational character of the re-enactment means participants have a range of motivations for their involvement.

Political chants and song, for example, are often recited by small groups. Some of the most common are the songs of the AKP’s political opponents, the Nationalistic Movement Party.

Other participants engage in religious chants such as Allahu akbar (Allah is the greatest) and Tek yol İslam, tek yol şehadet (Only path is Islam, only path is martyrdom).

Arguably the populist nature of the re-enactment legitimises other tourist and unofficial remembrance forms at Gallipoli that work to cap the state’s control over historical interpretation.

The 57th Regiment re-enactment is becoming a popular pilgrimage activity throughout the year. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), for example, had a re-enactment as part of its four-day Justice Congress at Gallipoli in August 2017. The congress was held to highlight violations of the justice system by Erdoğan following the attempted coup.

Like the main April 25 re-enactment, the success and political outcomes of such ritual displays are highly contingent. In the case of the CHP congress, its ability to challenge the AKP’s symbolic alignment with Gallipoli was hampered by photos appearing on social media of congress members drinking alcohol on the battlefields. The images caused a public scandal. A CHP spokesperson admitted:

Such impertinent behavior is completely against the glorious memory of our Gallipoli martyrs.

The ConversationWhether Australians and New Zealanders will return to Gallipoli en masse for future Anzac Days, and how they will be received if they do, is uncertain. But ritual performances on the battlefields on April 25 are almost certain to remain politically significant in Turkey.

Brad West, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Creative Industries, University of South Australia and Ayhan Aktar, Chair Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

A modern and united Australia must shift its national day from January 26



File 20180119 80168 1wnnj7d.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
We must change the date of Australia Day again again if we want to achieve a national day that unifies all Australians.
Shutterstock

Tom Calma, University of Canberra

As the debate continues over whether Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, this series looks at the politics of some unresolved issues swirling around Australia Day – namely, the republic and reconciliation. And just for good measure, we’ll check the health of Australian slang along the way.


Increased momentum around changing the date of Australia Day reflects a growing sense that January 26 is symbolic of the Australia we used to be, not the Australia we hope to become.

Recent moves to promote changing the date of our national day are informed by the fact that many Australians – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – feel they cannot celebrate on January 26, because that date marks the commencement of a long history of dispossession and trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We’ve changed the date before – in fact, January 26 has only been a national public holiday since 1994 – and must do so again if we want to achieve a national day that unifies all Australians.

Still, there is a strong contingent of Australians who do not agree.

Before we can settle on a way forward, there is more work to be done in terms of raising awareness of the fraught symbolism of January 26, and what Australia stands to gain by changing the date of our national day to one that represents the shared values of modern Australia.

Thinking about exactly what we are celebrating

There are differing interpretations of what it means to celebrate on January 26. But what’s indisputable is the historical origin of the date.


Read more: Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds


Arthur Phillip arrived at Sydney Cove and raised the national flag of the United Kingdom on January 26, 1788. In doing so, he founded the colony of New South Wales and, at the same time, commenced the dispossession and marginalisation of Indigenous people.

The tradition of observing January 26 began a few decades later, in the early 1800s, but only in NSW. It was referred to by various names in the following years, including First Landing Day and Foundation Day. Other colonies – namely South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) – celebrated their own colonial foundations, which took place on other dates.

It took another century before the states and territories agreed, in 1935, to a common name (Australia Day) and timing (the Monday nearest to January 26) of celebrations. And it wasn’t until 1994 that the decision was made to make January 26 a national public holiday.

What does celebrating January 26 actually mean?

As the history books indicate, January 26 festivities were initiated to mark the arrival of the first British colonists and the establishment of a British colony on the east coast of Australia.

This history involves a period of conflict that continued until the 1960s, as well as government policies of assimilation, separation and dispossession. During this time, many Indigenous people were removed from their traditional lands, and stopped from practising their language and culture.

Today, Indigenous peoples are still recovering from the chain of events that were set in motion on that day in 1788. The ongoing impact can be seen in disturbing rates of Indigenous incarceration and the growing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care, to give just two of many examples.

Another problem with holding our national day on January 26 is that it is a day that positions European settlement as the primary source of national identity and pride. In doing so, it ignores more than 60,000 years of pre-colonial history and 230 years of multicultural migration to Australia.

By changing the date, Australia can show that it is ready to truly accept and include Indigenous histories, cultures and contributions as a valued part of the Australian story.

In this way, a change of date is actually about Australia maturing from a country that celebrates assimilation, separation and dispossession into a country that celebrates inclusion, acceptance, diversity and harmony.

A way forward

While not all Australians agree that a change of date is needed, it’s clear this is an issue that is not going away. More and more Australians are asking: “why not?”


Read more: First reconciliation, then a republic – starting with changing the date of Australia Day


This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first Day of Mourning at Australia Hall in Sydney, where Aboriginal and civil rights activist Jack Patten told attendees that “Aborigines have no reason to rejoice” on Australia Day.

All these years later, changing the date remains a relatively simple procedure that would have an immense symbolic impact. It would demonstrate to Indigenous Australians that the broader community wants a national day on which all Australians can celebrate together.

While figures on the other side of the debate suggest a push to change the date is divisive, #changethedate is – at its heart – a movement that seeks to bring us closer together. That’s what reconciliation is about: recognising and healing the past so that we can build a better and more unified tomorrow.

On January 26, I call on all Australians to thoughtfully consider the following: can our national day ever be truly inclusive if it is celebrated on a day that represents the physical and cultural dispossession of the First Australians?

Until Australia is ready to change the date, Reconciliation Australia will continue to share the knowledge that is necessary to help more Australians realise the undeniable answer to this question.


The ConversationCatch up on others in the series here.

Tom Calma, Chancellor, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.