ANOTHER year, another debate about the meaning of Australia Day.
Our nation’s day of patriotism has always been fraught with controversy. For many, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the things they love most about this country, while, for others, it’s a reminder of the country’s (often maligned) colonial history.
Since last year’s Australia Day celebrations, this debate has escalated even further.
In March last year, the University of NSW received national scrutiny for teaching its undergraduate students to refer to Captain James Cook’s arrival on January 26, 1788 as an “invasion”, rather than a “discovery” or “settlement”.
In September, alternative music radio station triple j announced it would, after this year, review its tradition of holding its perennial music countdown, the Hottest 100, on Australia Day.
This was a response to calls on social media for the Hottest 100 to be moved to another day, out of respect for indigenous people, which went viral.
Then, in November, Western Australian council The City of Fremantle voted to cancel its Australia Day celebrations this year, in favour of a “culturally inclusive alternative” two days later, to be named “One Day”.
No side enters into this conversation in bad faith.
On the one hand, Aussies who want to celebrate January 26 do so because it’s, for them, a tradition – one which enables them to celebrate the aspects they love about Australia.
On the other, Aboriginals – as far as I am able to understand, despite my lack of insight – don’t want to posture about “political correctness” or enforce some kind of social world-view on others; for them, January 26 represents a memory so painful none of us could fathom it.
As a nation, we need to have a conversation about the date we celebrate our national pride, because if that date alienates one group or another, how can we truly be proud of what our nation stands for?
This is especially the case when we’re talking about the group that’s called this land “home” the longest.