Australia Day

Australia Day Australia Day Australia Day is a day set aside to commemorate the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet at Sydney Cove on the 26 January 1788. On the day of his arrival, Captain Arthur Phillip declared the area that became the colony of New South Wales to be a British possession. This landing started the first permanent European settlement on this island continent. Australia Day, January 26, is celebrated with a public holiday and celebrations in every State. The choice of the 26 January as the day of celebration for all Australians has been queried and argued by many people.

That the day might symbolize invasion, dispossession and death to many Aboriginal people was a notion ‘unfamiliar to the average Australian until the later half of this century.’ The Editorial in The Sunday Age of the 23 January 1999, arguing for a change of date, stated that January 26 ‘can never be a truly national day for it symbolises to many Aborigines the date they were conquered and their lands occupied.’ Involvement of the Indigenous community on Australia Day has taken many forms – forced participation in re-enactments and mourning for Invasion Day, as well as peaceful protests through the city streets. Personally, Australia Day does not mean a lot to me. As I was not born in Australia and only received my Australian citizenship in 1995, I have never really seen the significance of the public holiday; however one thing I do believe in, is that the date should be changed. The government must find a day on which everyone can feel included, in which everyone can participate equally, and can celebrate with pride our Australian identity. I believe acknowledgement of the past is the first step towards reconciliation.

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That includes recognition that since white settlement (or invasion, as indigenous people experienced it) the Aborigines were dispossessed of their land and the life that was lived on it. The consequences of these experiences, I believe are felt in every aspect of life. It is surely quite obvious that we can predict terrible social consequences if a group of people have not been thought of, or treated as human; if their families and communities have been torn apart and if they have been dispossessed of their lands and cultural traditions. Surely this is clear in the profile of Australia’s indigenous population. And while the historical aspects of the 26 January will always be acknowledged, there must be a greater awareness of the need to celebrate modern Australia – a land of diverse ethnic makeup and a land working towards reconciliation with its indigenous people.

A change of date for Australia Day, would give it a greater significance to myself, as well as the wider community.


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