It’s that time of year again, when Australia Day, our national celebration comes about.
More and more in recent years, controversy has arisen over this specific public holiday.
Increasingly, the day is becoming synonymous with racism, discrimination against our indigenous peoples and the worst our society can represent, as opposed to a day of civic and social unity.
Newspaper articles are published like clockwork every year on this subject, radio talk show hosts will begin to decry that this is even an issue and blame the ‘do-gooders’ in our society for wanting to change everything.
Many people have come to rename the day Invasion Day, and within certain circles if there is a gathering, it has become customary to at least take a moment of remembrance for what this day represents for an important part of our society, and maybe chip in a bit of cash for donations to an indigenous community initiative or two.
You see, for many of us, and myself included, it is increasingly representing something dark and unhappy. Uncomfortably so. A day that has resulted in misery for generations for a people whose land was taken from them forcibly, simply as they had a society that was of an alternate make-up to what the original settlers had.
Imagine, if you are reading this in the US, if Columbus’ Day was the United States’ national day of celebration. That’s the crux of what the issue is.
Yes, feel free to call us all ‘woke hipster douchebags, but the fact is,
Because they didn’t build permanent structures on this land, they therefore had their lands removed from them.
Because they didn’t have a formal written language [instead a very rich oral and pictorial language spanning back aeons], they had their lands removed from them.
Because they didn’t farm this land in the traditional agricultural Western sense, their land was taken.
This issue has become one of contention and debate.
The one thing that makes me grateful is that we have this opportunity to have a national dialogue about this. Many of Australia’s indigenous peoples abhor this day, and see it as [justifiably] a day of sorrow and remembrance as the start of the destruction of their culture.
We all seem to forget collectively the atrocities that have taken place in this country in the name of civilization and advancement.
The genocide of the Tasmanian indigenous peoples. The waves of disease and sickness of the indigenous peoples due to foreign diseases introduced into this country by settlers. The Stolen Generation, where mere children were forcibly removed from their families in order to grow up ‘white’ and ‘civilized’. The intervention in the Northern Territory in 2007 by the arch-conservative Howard government. The numerous massacres that have occurred.
These are all things that have happened that I feel we have all collectively swept under the rug. Is this the kind of nation we want to be a part of? Is it really what we stand for? Where we ignore the plight of the very people who were here before anyone else?
The upsetting thing is, the defence used by the crowd who do not want to change the date or even have this discussion at any cost is tinged with racism, anger and belittlement.
I don’t think I have heard yet a decent argument to keep the date where it is. Every argument and point in discussion has turned to the following:
That the do-gooders want to destroy this nation.
The trope of the ‘woke SJW’s [Social Justice Warriors] aka ‘Do-Gooders’, a term I recall even from when I was a kid and my parents listened to talk back radio, is a point in contention and is a tried and tested stand by. The fact that so many who speak out for moving the date to a less controversial time tend to be younger and urbane has become a bone to pick with the no-move crew.
It’s become popular to use the stereotypical SJW inner city Greens or Labour voter and slam them, as well as paint them as a scapegoat for the fact that many people feel that these types are indelibly changing their society, one which they see as falling apart and losing its way.
This makes no sense, as these people are the ones who espouse free speech, yet decry those who want to initiate this national conversation.
The fact is, nothing stays the same. Nothing stays static. For the good of the future and the wellbeing of all, things change. It’s unavoidable. It’s how society develops and evolves.
It’s not the heyday of the 1950’s. Women are not bound by men’s attitudes, and strive hard for the same rights [and pay, still to this day] as men. LGBTIQ people are visible and have the same rights as all others and are making a big impact on society.
It shows just how afraid some are in Australia. How increasingly worried and paranoid some are becoming. Fearful for becoming out of touch; becoming irrelevant, and being pushed slowly but inevitably aside from channels of power.
Some of the arguments made touch upon this as an issue, or use the hipster, coffee slurping inner city dweller wanting to change everything as a negative, when in fact it is something to behold as those under 40 are becoming more and more interested and invested in talking about our national identity, about what our society should be like and represent.
Not to mention the plight of our indigenous peoples whom have been entirely forgotten in this whole debate. Many of us are concerned, and want to change things for the betterment of all.
Did we all forget our protester past, including those heady times in the 1970’s when support for change in the form of the Whitlam Government reached fever pitch? Or the Moratorium against the Vietnam War? Where is that youthful exuberance that was apparent then, now?
What do they think? Why are they so incensed and upset by this?
The same people who would have us keep the date then remark on my next point, that:
Our society is becoming too precious and sensitive.
This has been an argument which plays into the above. It is without fail utilised by shock-jocks and certain news outlets of increasingly questionable repute to play into the fear that the segments of society that want this date changed, led by the villainous figures that are the Greens party, are indicative of a society they see as being too ‘precious’ and overly sensitive.
But yet again, this is the very core of people who cry out for freedom of speech, tell us again and again that they have the right to stand up for what they believe in, yet have no recourse or rebuttal that is not tinged with anger, discriminatory or vaguely offensive remarks.
There is a really jingoistic parochial nature to this argument.
I have yet to hear of a single clear and concise argument for keeping the date where it is, using logic, rational and analytical thought.
There really does not seem to be one. Browsing relevant posts on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, any rebuttal and reply I have come across has had no conscionable, reasonable and intelligent point.
Really, there hasn’t. Majority of the replies seem to centre on the notion of ‘don’t be so sensitive and harden the fuck up.’
Going up the heights of Australian politics, the assistant Immigration Minister, of all people who should look at this national conversation with some attempted objectivity, had this to say:
‘The assistant immigration minister, Alex Hawke, says he has not heard a “reasonable argument” to support changing the date of Australia Day, saying the national day should not be moved “just because we have some elements of our history that we’re not proud of”. -The Guardian, 16 January 2018
‘Some elements of our history that we are not proud of’, does not seem like a very strong or convincing argument in order to keep the day where it is. It’s a simple flat-out denial of this even being an issue. Despite this dark history that so many of us are not happy to sweep aside.
Again, we are in a free enough society where we can be honest about our politic. Yet, this statement discounts a very important aspect of our history, one of which many of us [myself included] had no real in-depth knowledge of, growing up.
It is a lazy and indolent argument and smacks of a dismissive arch-condescending tone.
But hey, that’s Australian politics for you.
Finally, the last point that is made at times by those whom want to keep the date where it is, is the following:
Australia Day has been a part of our national identity for a long time and should stay where it is because of this.
…Despite the fact that it was only recognised as a national public holiday across the country from 1994 onwards, and has had a history of being a mainly New South Wales-related day of celebration for many years.
Despite the fact that it has jumped about for decades, and there was no official day of recognition for the formation of this country across the whole country until the 90’s. Some states took longer than others to take up this day as an official day of this nation.
Clearly my thoughts on this issue should be quite apparent now. To me, there is no great affront to changing this day to something more appropriate and less controversial. It might be a great change for us all.
And that is the thing I’m trying to get at. Sometimes change is an amazing thing.
You’ll still have your day off and a chance to go to the beach or get pissed or have a BBQ.
You’ll still be able to celebrate a day that would more correctly be about national unity for all, not for most.
So, what do you stand for?