i think we have this image of ourselves as australians.
we like to think we are thought of as a tough, hard-working people. we pride ourselves on giving everyone ‘a go’, on our loyalty and our killer sense of sportsmanship. we are fond of the ‘solid blokes’ and the ‘dinky di’, ‘true blues’ of the world. we are renowned for a bluntness and honesty; calling it like it is, cutting through the bulldust, trusting our gut for the right course of action. the yanks store us away as the laidback larrikin, perpetually throwing shrimp on the barbie—ready to be pulled out for a crass laugh in any hollywood blockbuster. the rest of the world think we live in bathers, ride hopping marsupials to school and excessively shorten already short words whilst adding o’s to most male names. just ask benno, jacko and stevo.
but, it is important for all of us not to be so laidback, so preoccupied in our larrikin ways, that we let injustice wallow and exist … and not say anything.
the truth is the traditional custodians of this land were hugely, horribly wronged. and it is terrifying to think that the most shameful part of our mutual history could be still occurring today.
we celebrate and commemorate a day of slaughter.
we call it our national day when so many of us mourn.
australia day, regardless of what our kids are taught at school, marks the start of the attempted genocide of the aboriginal peoples. genocide is a strong word. you think attempted genocide and you think of the persecution of the jewish people and nazi germany and hitler’s death camps.
but bring it to australia, events of 1788 and its aftermath still leaking into our country’s conscience now: the eradication of ancient cultures; the forced removal of children; the brutal slaughter of countless souls; the engulfing, all-encompassing whiteness that looked to permanently erode identities.
it having started more than two hundred years ago does not mean it did not happen. it does not mean mourning is disqualified due to time. it does not mean white australia can invalidate something because it is not directly relevant to ‘us’ … or maybe it is directly relevant and we would rather forget that.
and that is even worse.
the arguments against changing the date of australia day are petty.
firstly, i would like to say i am fully aware, as any self-proclaimed fair dinkum australian, that the current date is prime time summer, perfect for the augural barbecue and a smashing game of cricket with the family. i would like to add that, yes, i know we do have a long tradition of having it on that day. and as australians we hold traditions in the highest of esteems, and could think of nothing worse than breaking any rules. and, yes, federation was the day we celebrate now as new year’s day – because that is already taken (and because we take pride in our renowned, award-winning laziness) we may as well keep this one. oh, and on that note, changing the day might clash or bring it too close to other national or state public holidays … really, it is just too complicated.
okay. let’s lessen the complication.
firstly – not disputing our deep and communal love for australian summer – i do not think we even received a hot australia day this year. it was sunny, maybe, but it could have been a warm day in spring. it was nothing like the typical steamy, humid australia day we romantically imagine when we think of our national day. and, yet, nobody seemed to be in the pits of woe at this lacklustre sunshine; families were still out having barbecues and playing footy along st kilda esplanade, even though there were grey clouds in the sky and a nippy breeze.
two: “a long tradition” … we also had a long tradition of women not being able to vote, of being fired immediately after being pregnant and not allowed to work after having children. in humankind’s history, we have seen the long tradition of people being stoned to death after cheating on their partner. and we unanimously give thanks that traditions can change.
i’ll combine three because it is basically the same sorry argument. federation day, already taken; changing the day might bring it too close to other holidays.
the answer is easy peasy. there happens to be quite a number of days in a year. actually, clarify that: there happens to be quite a number of days left of summer, also, if we are just so desperate to hold onto our scorching holidays.
so, when should we change the date to? it just needs to be a conversation.
every citizen of australia should be involved in choosing a day that allegedly represents us. it should not exclude any of our population, and it should not ignore our mutual past.
because to sum all of the above up, white australia does not want to take a significant step in healing this gaping wound in our history because we are infinitely lazy scoundrels.
every other independent country celebrates their national day on the day they became a country. australia celebrates on the day some foreign country decided to build a maximum-security prison and murder a lot of innocent people. changing the day would send a powerful message to the world that we, as a nation, as australians, are doing more than just paying lip service to reconciliation with the traditional custodians of this land.
we as individuals do not take responsibility for the first fleet nor any of the hardship that followed, but australia should.
imagine strangers invading your land – that you do not even think of as your land because it is not your way of life; land that you are prepared to share because that is your culture – destroy the land you are living off, consequently your homes; poison your water, the creatures, your foods, your way of life; carve up the land that does not belong to anybody and sell it to other invaders, deny you the right to even be included in this ‘new’ country. then, have these strangers brutally remove your kids, screaming and sobbing, from you, their family, never to see them again. or to see your babies in twenty years, and they are no longer babies, and you are both suffering from alcohol and drug abuse, and they blame you and you blame yourself; and from afar you watch your grandchildren grow up in the same cycles of resentment, and hurt, and fury, unable to hug their own children, in turn, because of the physical and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of those deemed ‘superior’ and ‘cultured’ and ‘civilised’.
how would you feel if you were expected to forget these horrors? how would you feel if you were expected to celebrate these horrors?
our first nations people have their pain celebrated yearly, with a public holiday commemorating the beginning of the destruction of their way of life.
as australians, the self-proclaimed larrikins with an unwavering sense of right and wrong, we need to do something about it.
is there any question that we should change the date?