With the ongoing debate around Australia Day, even though it’s a national discussion within the federal jurisdiction, it is one that should not create angst or anger, more so an opportunity for conversation and consideration of what is relevant, and what Australians aspire to.
National Australia Day Council seeks an Australia Day that can increasingly include recognition and celebration by all Australians of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to our nation. January 26 has diverse meanings within communities hence the debate: For many, Australia Day is where bangers are burnt, thongs are thrown and gatherings/events focus on celebrating being an Aussie, not the specifics or relevance of the date this is held. However, for others, it is ‘Invasion Day’ from the first landing and others ‘Survival Day’ in relation to the date which they see as marking the start of violence and degradation of their culture. This has led to some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians objecting to celebrations on a day they consider one of mourning, whilst others mark this day as one of survival for their ongoing traditions and cultures.
It is important that these diverse views are all respected so that collectively as a nation we can work together to acknowledge and learn about our nation’s past. This includes traditions and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to colonialism and multiculturalism. In amongst there is much good, as well sorrow, and we should not shy away from the hard parts, as all have stories to share regardless of where we have been born.
Ultimately, in chatting on the street or supermarket, the response is fairly simple. People just want a day to celebrate everything it means to be an ‘Aussie’ including the incredible country we live in, and the incredible people we share it with, without any negative connotations. To be fair and free, to merge into a united future, and to do so together without historical shackles. And in the tradition of the ‘Aussie’, to have burnt bangas and bunya nuts, thong and boomerang throwing, Dreamtime stories, and bush poetry.
So let’s find a way to celebrate Australia Day together as who we are – one mob. And let’s do it now, to avoid any further debate that is distressing to so many and creating unnecessary divisions.