Change the date?

Each year it seems the clamour to change the Australia Day date grows. I commented on this last year, at which time I rejected the published arguments in favour of this. My position on that is unchanged. I take an instinctive offence when Australia Day is re-cast as Invasion Day, and I reckon a good swathe of Australians feel the same way. I was in favour of Kevin Rudd coming out and finally saying sorry for the mistreatment of the indigenous population of Australia. It feels too much a finger point and guilt trip though when the day celebrated by the majority of Australia is branded instead as a day of violence.

I think it’s over the top and histrionic, as is much of the commentary about this, but as that’s the lingua franca of the day I guess it’s something I must become used to it. It’s bad politics though too. You’re not going to affect change by putting half the population offside. There needs to be a more measured and diplomatic approach. Something less emotional.

As it happens I don’t care one whit if the day is changed. The day itself means little to me as a remembrance of some long ago settlement. From a historical perspective I reckon that would be a common view among Australians. I’m a well-known liberal too, so one would expect me to be in support of this*, and I would be if it was better argued. I just come at the intellectual position it proposes, which I think is both foolish and false. My rational self is irritated no end by that.

There is, however, an excellent reason to change the date that has not been articulated. It’s pretty simple. Rather than claiming January 26 represents an invasion, the point should be simply made that it represents the 98% odd of Australians who have established a home in this nation since that date. It excludes those who were already here.

Forget the melodrama of invasion day and so on. We have acknowledged that many wrongs were done to the aboriginal population of Australia, and have recognised that through Mabo and the formal apology and in the different ways we pay tribute to the original owners of the land. There will be arguments that it’s not enough, but then it will never be enough, and in truth, outside the rednecks, most Australians are accepting of what has happened. It’s time for us to move forward as one people.

That’s why a national day inclusive of all is a good idea (a national day that is divisive is no national day). I’m happy to change the day to something that represents that. What that day is I don’t know, but I have always believed that Anzac day is our spiritual national day.

  • Though I hate how society has polarised into interest groups that have become clichéd in their predictability. I think it’s unintelligent and a leading cause of many of the issues today. I reject that for myself. I won’t be subject to the groupthink of a stated position. I will think for myself, and always with applied relevance to the situation.)
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