Australia Day celebrations

The weather is not looking kind to the traditional Australia Day celebration of a barbecue and beers and a day off work with your mates. Several outdoor events that were planned for our region have already been cancelled.

But as another Australia Day/Invasion Day rolls around I wonder (again) about the suitability of having January 26 as our national day of celebration.

It is the day that celebrates and commemorates the landing of the First Fleet; the day that Captain Arthur Phillip planted the English flag in the beach at Sydney Cove and declared it a colony of the British Empire.

By definition it is a divisive date as it fails to recognise that Aboriginal people had been living on this land for 40,000 years (or more) before that flag was planted.

And by being divisive rather than inclusive, it is hard for me to get excited by our national holiday. Surely January 1, 1901, the day that recognises the Federation of six separate colonies into the nation of Australia is a more appropriate date to commemorate as 'Australia Day'?

The argument against it seems to be that we'd lose a public holiday. Well what about we just add another one on May 27, the day day all Australians were recognised as citizens? Or Bradman's birthday? Any other day will do...

It may seem trivial or tokenistic to some, but as Janelle Saffin pointed out when I spoke to her about her role in the panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, symbolism is important. It affects how we see ourselves and how we feel about ourselves.

It will now come down to the argy bargy of backroom politics to determine exactly how a referendum will be put to ensure that it will be supported by the majority of Australians.

In our story on Aunty Bertha Kapeen (In Depth, pages 6-7) she also talks about the importance of the 1967 referendum on the self-esteem of Aboriginal people.

It's time we grew up as a nation and acknowledged our history. A few symbolic changes are not going to hurt anyone and might actually make us feel better about ourselves as a nation.

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