Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 28 January 2019

Australia Day

This is my flag.

The fuss about Australia Day continues.

I doubt that many of the drunken bogans who use the day to beclown themselves by doing weird things with the flag understand that the date marks the opening of a jail, and is not connected in any way with the actual foundation of our nation on January 1st 1901. 

This article by Dr Mark Copland was posted in our local rag (The Daily Chronicle). It is probably the most level-headed piece I've read on the subject -

The reasons that Toowoomba City Council fully endorsed a move to change the date of Australia Day away from January 26 in 2001 have not changed.

I suspect we would be living in a completely different universe should the current Toowoomba Regional Council back such a move in 2019, but this does not change the motives or reality that brought about such a move as we started the 21st century.

The founder of Toowoomba's Australia Day committee, the late Bill O'Brien called for a change from January 26 for two reasons. 

These involved accuracy and respect. In terms of accuracy Mr O'Brien highlighted the fact that Australia did not become a nation on January 26, 1788.

It was instead, January 1, 1901, the date of Federation.

The second point which the Toowoomba City Council of the day agreed with was that the day held little joy for the descendants of our First Peoples. He was quoted in this paper on January 25, 2003 with words that I feel bear repeating.

"We are celebrating a date that is offensive to the Aborigines and will continue to be that, which we fully understand. To change the date is not simply a nice thought; it is an essential action in the interest of truth, fairness and goodwill.

"This young nation has undertaken wonderful deeds in the interest of peace and goodwill in other lands. We have an essential demand on us to be dedicated to national harmony in our own land.

"Each step we take, each decision we make must be directed to achieving a just and healthy national community."

The culture warriors of the right have beautifully constructed a straw man debate on January 26.

Last Thursday's Zanetti cartoon did it so well.

It is these fringe dwelling hippies with weird hairdos, nose rings and nothing better to do with their lives who are pushing for the change of date.

It is inner city Melbourne, Byron Bay, and Fremantle pushing their "politically correct on steroids arguments".

On the conservative side the Institute of Public Affairs recently released a study showing that 70 per cent of Australians agreed or strongly agreed that the day should remain January 26.

The Advance Australia organisation has grabbed hold of former Labor Leader Mark Latham's, "Save Australia Day" campaign and run with it.

On the progressive side of things the Australia Institute released a survey last Thursday showing that 56 per cent of Australians don't mind which date Australia Day is held.

But wrong question to wrong group of people. I would confidently assert that if a survey were to be conducted, a vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in this country would favour a date other than January 26 to celebrate as a national community.

And please don't trot out the line that this is symbolism and will not change the life situation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens.

Of course it won't. This day is all about symbolism.

Nobody does symbolism like Aussies. The current federal government has allocated $48.7 million over four years to remember the 250th anniversary of James Cook's voyage to this continent.

It is estimated that we will spend $1.1 billion on war memorials between 2014 and 2028.

Let's at least be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that even though we know that January 26 causes pain for a significant proportion of the descendants of the first Australians we will not let go.

Even though the tradition of mourning and protesting the day goes back to 1938 and the day itself has only been gazetted as a public holiday since 1994, we refuse to budge.

I'm not waiting for a change of date when it comes to finally including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers; I'm waiting for a change of heart.

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