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.

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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.

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.

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



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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.

How to have a better conversation about Australia Day


Tim Dean, University of Sydney

I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve found the conversation around changing the date of Australia Day a tad frustrating. There are plenty of loud voices offering different views, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much genuine engagement between the various sides. It has devolved into more of a slanging match than a healthy conversation.

As a philosopher with an interest in how we argue and disagree with each other, and how those arguments and disagreements often go off the rails, I’m interested in understanding why this particular debate has proven so problematic, and whether there are ways to steer it towards more constructive territory.




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


Who we are

One of the biggest difficulties with talking about something like Australia Day is that it’s intricately tied to our identity – particularly our social identity.

We aren’t just isolated, autonomous individuals. We are social creatures who form into groups. In turn, these groups provide us with narratives that help us understand our place in the world. They inform our values and tell us who our allies are (our in-group) and who our enemies are (our out-groups).

So being a “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial”, a “Collingwood supporter” or “Broncos fan”, a “Christian”, “Muslim” or even an “atheist” connects us to other people we perceive to be in the same group. Similarly, Baby Boomers railing against Millennials, AFL supporters ribbing NRL supporters, and believers jibing about non-believers helps reinforce our identity in our chosen groups.

One core problem with the Australia Day debate is that there are at least two “Australian” identities involved who are talking past each other, and they each see Australia Day and January 26 in very different light.

Consider the identity expressed in this quote from former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott:

[…] it’s hard to imagine a better Australia in the absence of the Western civilisation that began here from that date. […] How could any Australian’s heart not beat with pride?

You could read this as Abbott emphasising a narrative of “Australia as a success story”. And while he acknowledges in the article that “not everything’s perfect in contemporary Australia” – referring to the disadvantage experienced by many Indigenous Australians – he still asserts that we, as Australians, should feel proud of what the country has achieved.

For Abbott, January 26 is a perfectly suitable symbol of “Australia as a success story”, because he believes much of that success stemmed from the introduction of “Western civilisation” to this continent.

This brand of Australian identity also tends to be associated with a particular cultural and ethnic picture, one strongly informed by the country’s colonial roots and its 20th-century post-colonial “coming of age”.

That picture was formed in a time when a person’s national identity typically overlapped with a relatively homogeneous ethnic identity. That has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, with nation-states like Australia being home to multiple cultural and ethnic groups.




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Get yer hand off it, mate, Australian slang is not dying


This shift has put pressure on the idea that being “Australian” necessarily means being of Anglo or European descent, which is unsettling for many people. This is particularly because some of the cultures that are now becoming part of the Australian identity used to be out-groups that were used to help reinforce Anglo-European Australian identity.

The New Australia

Many Australians don’t share Abbott’s narrative, and their identity as “Australian” is significantly different to the one he has expressed. For them, “Australian” has a wider variety of meanings and cultural influences.

This view also often acknowledges the negative aspects of colonisation, such as the legacy of non-Anglo-European out-group exclusion (often in the form of racism), the destruction of Indigenous cultures, and the social disadvantage that many Indigenous Australians experience today as a result of “Western civilisation”.

This doesn’t mean they believe Australia is a failure or that they don’t take pride in being Australian. But for them, January 26 in particular symbolises something very different than it does to Abbott, as expressed by journalist and Goori man Jack Latimore:

When it comes to the subject of 26 January, the overwhelming sentiment among First Nations people is an uneasy blend of melancholy approaching outright grief, of profound despair, of opposition and antipathy, and always of staunch defiance.

This causes a kind of dissonance in people with this perspective when January 26 rolls around. It’s hard to celebrate the good things about Australia on a day that represents, to them, many of the bad things.

Thus the call has not been to eliminate Australia Day, but to move it to a different date that doesn’t cause such dissonance, as expressed by social justice lawyer Will de Waal.

This is not to say that we should not show our pride in being Australian – we absolutely should. I just don’t think we should do this on January 26. No Australian should celebrate on a day of mourning.

Political identity

But this discussion is further complicated by another dimension of our social identity. Consider this quote from former Labor leader and commentator Mark Latham:

As each year millions of Australians rally around Australia Day on 26 January as a chance to feel good about our country and its remarkable achievements, the Greens’ leader Richard Di Natale has announced that one of his top priorities for 2018 is to “change the date”.

In truth, the Left’s grievance industry is now so comprehensive, so all-encompassing, they are triggered by every significant date on the calendar, from 26 January to Christmas Day.

Here Latham is not only referencing the positive aspect of his identity as “Australian”, but he’s also reinforcing his identity as “anti-Left”. By casting aspersions on the Greens and their leader he is bucking up his own side by putting the other side down. This is typical social identity reinforcing behaviour.

Thus the debate around Australia Day has also become a proxy for a wider conflict between two political identities, the Left and the Right. And this is where our social identity – particularly our political identity – can serve as a barrier to good conversations.

Turning it around

The good news is that there are ways to turn this conversation around and make it more constructive. It’s not going to be resolved overnight, but it’s probably a conversation worth having before the next Australia Day rolls around.

First, we need to remind ourselves that identity does matter. If we speak in a way that challenges someone’s identity, they’re likely to dig in their heels and get defensive. When that happens, the chances of having any constructive conversation evaporates.




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One way to avoid this pitfall is simply to listen. Instead of starting by voicing and defending your opinions, try asking questions and listening to what others have to say. Ask them what “Australia” means to them, or what kind of Australia they’d like to live in and celebrate. Then acknowledge what they’ve said, even if you have a different view.

Listening is a powerful thing. Think about how good it feels when someone gives you even a few uninterrupted minutes to express what you think. By listening, you don’t only have a better shot at understanding what the other person is talking about, but you’re also signalling to them that you’re willing to give them your time and attention to hear them out. Even that simple gesture can short-circuit the defence mechanisms that prevent deeper engagement.

The ConversationIf we can get a bit better at listening, then we can start having a more constructive conversation about what it means to be Australian and how we should celebrate it. And that sounds like a good conversation to have.

Tim Dean, Honorary Associate in Philosophy, University of Sydney

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

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



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Changing the date of Australia Day is the first tiny step for Australia to begin the reckoning with its origins.
AAP/Dan Peled

Maggie Walter, University of Tasmania

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.


I have always been rather taken with Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoon which depicts a man getting out of bed in the morning, reading a very large poster on his wall that says:

First pants, then your shoes.

This stating of an obvious but critical ordering of events has salience for the debate over whether Australia should become a republic. Reconciliation between the Settler and First Nations populations is a self-evident prerequisite for Australia cutting the ties of colonial dependency with Britain to stand on our own.

If we can’t work out that we need to complete the peacemaking between Indigenous Australians – the sole occupiers of the Australian continent for upwards of 60,000 years – and those whose ancestors arrived at or post-1788, we are not ready to be a republic.

We might be attracted to republican prestige, with its sense of a national coming of age, but we can’t just take the title. Being a republic brings with it the responsibilities of being a grown-up country.

Changing the date of Australia Day is the first tiny step for Australia, both as a nation and a society, to begin the reckoning with its origins. The Australian nation-state is founded on the dispossession of the people of the lands the nation-state now occupies, and from which it draws its wealth and identity.

It’s as simple as that. No ifs, no buts. Australia Day observed on January 26 celebrates the date on which the British flag was first raised in Sydney Cove in the act of colonisation.


Further reading: Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds


The debate over the date

I am heartened by the growing calls from so many non-Indigenous people and groups to change the date of Australia Day. But I am also despairing that so many still do not seem to understand why celebrating January 26 is deeply hurtful to Indigenous people.

Perhaps, as Henry Reynolds suggests, many non-Indigenous Australians simply do not know what January 26 represents. Maybe. But most do know that the date is connected in some way to Indigenous dispossession.


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


It is also well known what this day represents for Indigenous people: the massacres, the near-genocides, the abduction of women, the forced relocations, and the denial of basic human rights dictated by the euphemistically named Aboriginal Protection Acts – some not fully repealed until the 1970s. Why would Indigenous people choose to celebrate that?

Or, as Mark McKenna writes, for many, Australia Day is constructed as cut loose from history. The past is the past, it is argued, so why can’t we all just celebrate what’s good about Australia on January 26?


Further reading: More than an excuse for a long weekend – how we came to love Australia Day


Yes, colonisation is a fact that can’t be undone. Nobody knows this better than Indigenous people. But celebrating Australia Day on that date is the opposite of a present/future focus.

January 26 was selected purposefully to commemorate that past by declaring the initial act of colonisation as the most important event in the Australian historical calendar. Why does non-Indigenous Australia choose to celebrate that?

That the political proponents of keeping the date as it is know what January 26 is actually celebrating is clear in their deployment of noble sentiment as obfuscating defence.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, in a 2017 speech on the topic, is fairly typical in this regard. Castigating the Yarra Council over its decision to stop referring to January 26 as Australia Day, Turnbull argued Australia Day is the day on which we recognise and honour our First Australians and our newest migrants – and to change the date would be to turn our back on Australian values. He has made similar remarks in recent days.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmalcolmturnbull%2Fvideos%2F10156167474656579%2F&show_text=1&width=560

I don’t dispute Turnbull’s sentiments. What he describes is what Australia Day should be. But what he describes is not what it is now.

Dressing up the pre-eminent day of commemoration in the Australian calendar as something other than this, as somehow about Australian values or a day that all Australians can take pride in, or – even as Turnbull asserts – a day when we recognise First Australians and our history, is just a dishonest diversion from the actuality.

We are convincing no-one, not even ourselves, that we are doing anything else on January 26 but celebrating colonisation and the dispossession of Indigenous people.

If we aren’t celebrating the colonisation of Australia, then there should be no problem in changing the date. If we are, then be honest about it without resorting to self-deceptions.

An Australia Day worth celebrating

Again, on January 26 this year, I, along with many other Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, will march down Elizabeth Street to the Tasmanian parliament lawns for rousing speeches and emotional protest.

In fact once the date is changed – as it inevitably will be – I will miss the event’s camaraderie. It has become a January ritual.

But imagine what Australia Day could be. What if Australia Day was actually those things Turnbull says it is. What if Australia Day was a genuine celebration of all that’s good and unique about Australia? What if Australia Day celebrated our 60,000 years or so of human history as something that belongs to all of us – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and that we can and should all take pride in?

What if Australia Day was a day on which we came together rather than celebrating the dispossession of one by the other?

Now that is an Australia Day worth celebrating.

But that day has not yet come. Instead, our leaders resolutely insist that this is the date most appropriate to hold our national day of celebration – and sanction those who disagree.

For Indigenous people, this tenacity can only be read as callous disregard. To do so in the shadow of overt refusal of the efforts of Indigenous people to advance reconciliation through the Uluru Statement from the Heart reinforces the political message of callousness. It also demonstrates a national immaturity.


Further reading: Listening to the heart: what now for Indigenous recognition after the Uluru summit?


A developed society reconciles its past with its present, resolving what needs to be resolved, settling what needs to be settled. For Australia, the result could be a new national narrative: one we wouldn’t have to resort to duplicity to celebrate, one more befitting an aspiring republic.

Drawing from the wisdom of the Far Side cartoon: Australia, first change the date to begin a just settling, then contemplate becoming a republic.


The ConversationCatch up on others in the series here.

Maggie Walter, Pro Vice Chancellor (Aboriginal Research and Leadership) and Professor of Sociology, University of Tasmania

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

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


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The Founding of Australia. By Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove, Jan. 26th 1788 (Algernon Talmadge R.A, 1937)
State Library of New South Wales

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

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.


Wendy McCarthy checked anxiously for signs of rain when she went to bed the night before Australia Day in 1988. A senior manager with the Australian Bicentennial Authority, McCarthy was staying at a hotel in The Rocks, Sydney, so she could wake up close to the action the following day.

McCarthy rose early to what sounded like rain. Fearing the worst, she rushed to the window. But the sound that had alarmed her was not rain. It was thousands of Australian feet, shuffling in their sneakers and thongs to the biggest party the country had ever seen. “It was my moment to weep with relief,” she reflected in her memoir. “Everyone had decided to be there.”

Not quite everyone perhaps, but Sydney Harbour was soon teeming with activity; of spectator craft, but also of tall ships and First Fleet re-enactment vessels, one of them famously bearing a Coca-Cola logo on its sails. Crowds lined the shores – some slept overnight in caves to get a nice possie – and millions more watched on television around the nation.




Read more:
Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day: a long history of celebration and contestation


While Australia Day is an occasion for barbecues, concerts and fireworks, as well as the display of flags that no one has any use for at other times, it has never been as spectacular since.

As a public holiday, it marks the boundary between the summer break – even for those who have long since returned to work – and the rest of the year.

For students, it announces the return to the world of uniforms, teachers, classes and books. For most of us, the normal balance (or imbalance) of work and leisure asserts its authority, even as we still swelter in blistering heat.

Australia Day is, among other things, a seasonal festival, like May Day is to the northern spring. Many, perhaps most, Australians are no more likely to reflect deeply on its historical significance than maypole dancers are inclined to ponder phallic symbolism. Some would have difficulty naming the historical event that Australia Day commemorates, the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. If pressed, they might tell you it was when Captain Cook turned up at Botany Bay.

It has long had its critics. In 1938, the year of the sesquicentenary of settlement, the Aborigines Progressive Association declared it a Day of Mourning and Protest. In the lead-up to the Bicentenary, Aboriginal activists embraced the slogan “White Australia has a Black History”. They said January 26, 1788, was a day of invasion.

January 26 is increasingly a date of protest for those who see it as Invasion Day.
AAP/Jacqueline Le

On the day of the Bicentenary in 1988, thousands of Indigenous people who had come from all over the country, as well as white sympathisers and supporters, marched through Sydney in protest. Some set up with flags and banners at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Later, many would head out to Kurnell, near Botany Bay, the site of Cook’s arrival in 1770, for a night of traditional dancing followed in the morning by a smoking ceremony.

So, what has changed with Change the Date? Social media have provided new opportunities for such campaigns. But the change since the 1980s is profound.

What was still just a counter-narrative in 1988 – one only partly absorbed into the historical consciousness of settler Australians – now more thoroughly permeates their sense of the Australian story. Those were times before Mabo, before the reconciliation movement and before the ascendancy of the Stolen Generations narrative.

Today, even if they are hazy about detail, white Australians increasingly appreciate that January 26 is for many Indigenous people a day of sadness, reminding them of dispossession, violence and suffering.

Some disagree, claiming to speak for ordinary Australians unimpressed with the latest iteration of political correctness. Former Labor Party leader turned right-wing activist Mark Latham tells us:

It’s a day of national unity and celebration where people can feel genuinely proud of being Australian.

Yet that he felt the need to tell us so, while launching an advertising campaign in partnership with Indigenous leader Jacinta Price to save Australia Day, only serves to highlight the contentious and increasingly divisive nature of the day.

Last year, responding to a couple of Melbourne councils announcing they would not conduct citizenship ceremonies on the day, the conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey also condemned “the latest move against Australia Day”, which was “often led by suburban Greens”. Blainey declared:

At a time when there is a widespread fear that the nation could be weakened by the hidden circles of Muslim terrorists, more social cohesion is essential.

It may be doubted whether Australia Day can do much to protect us from such a menace. To be sure, here and abroad, the state has long used national days to promote national unity. Australia Day was celebrated as Anniversary Day in Sydney in the early decades of white settlement, with an annual dinner and sporting events such as boat and horse races.




Read more:
The day I don’t feel Australian? That would be Australia Day


But in the late 19th century, a Victorian-based organisation of white native-born men, the Australian Natives’ Association (ANA), campaigned in favour of January 26 becoming a public holiday and the national day. It was sometimes subsequently known as ANA Day.

National days proliferated around the world, as nation-states invented traditions aimed at mobilising their populations in the years leading up to the first world war. One historian, Eugen Weber, famously called this the process of turning “peasants into Frenchmen”.

But the idea that January 26 might become Australia’s national day developed only slowly, not least because from 1916 it was competing to some extent with Anzac Day. The various civic rituals and occasions that now grace Australia Day – such as citizenship ceremonies and the announcement of the Australian of the Year awards and the honours list – were progressively grafted on to the day from the mid-20th century onwards.

The historian Ken Inglis, writing in 1967, reported that Australia Day was not marked in any public manner in Canberra at that time.

The problem for those who have harboured grand ambitions for Australia Day is that it is not our answer to Independence Day in the United States or to Bastille Day in France. Australia had no revolution.

The break that Australia Day marks is not that between dependence and independence, colony and republic, or the despotism of the old order versus the liberty, equality and fraternity of the new – even if strident Australia Day advocates do wax lyrical about the gift to Indigenous people of Western civilisation that the British arrival in 1788 so generously bestowed.

Australia Day will likely survive because of its seasonality. As a summer public holiday supporting some modest civic activity and public spectacle, it retains the backing (and money) of government and of a still considerable and powerful section of civil society. And it remains a popular occasion for social gatherings.

The ConversationBut as it becomes ever more entangled in battles over the meaning of our history, Australia Day will find it difficult to carry a “successful” national day’s normal civic burden of fostering common belonging and social cohesion.

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

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

Australia: Report Names Australia as the 5th Most Influential Nation in the World


An article in a British magazine has name Australia as the 5th most influential nation in the world and heaped praise on Kevin Rudd. A nice little article for Australia Day.

For more visit:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/elections/british-political-magazine-gives-foreign-minister-rudd-ringing-praise/story-fnbsqt8f-1226253861237