by Joe Montero and Ben Wilson
If Australia is going to have a national day, why not have it on a day that inspires?
The French celebrate Bastille Day, which begun the French revolution and brought the idea of people’s power to the world. The Americans have the 4 July, marking their defeat of the British and the birth of their nation.
These are big events worth celebrating. They bring people together and not divide them.
Why can’t we do this? Most countries do.
No one else ties their identity to a sailor that happened to come past and plant someone else flag and marked the dispossession of those who were already there.
This is exactly what is being done in the name of Australia. We can do much better than this.
The coming of Cook meant the end of a civilisation that had been here for up to 70,000 years, and the beginning of an era of genocide. This is what you call it, when most of the population is wiped out and the survivors regarded as something less than human.
Even with this dark side, Australia does have good and unique features that we should celebrate. There’s a lot we can learn from thee first Australians. Peoples have come here from all over the world. All have contributed to building an Australia, which has taken on the best of many and created something unique.
There is room for improvement. Matters must be made right in terms of the First Nations. Discrimination against others, because of their colour, ethnicity or religion has taken place. Most of us want to make this right.
Our national day should help us to make Australia a better place.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison should be giving some leadership in this. He is not. Instead, he is going out of his way to silence those who do not agree that it should be on 26 January. A pretence is made that this is some kind of sacrosanct holy day, linked to tradition and cannot be changed.
By regulation, the big and growing list of local councils who want to, have been prevented from holding their naturalisation ceremonies on another date.
He has made his stand, because a large and growing part of Australia does not agree.
It will not stop the shift in public opinion, and huge crowds are expected to turn up to the counter Invasion Day marches around the country.
The truth is that 26 January was brought in by the Keating government in 1994, and it was the Howard government two years later, which consolidated it into what it is now. Howard was pushing a concept of an Australia, built by the British and British settlers, to the exclusion of everyone else. This is the legacy that continues to this day.
Reality is very different. The First Nations peoples fought for their existence, and despite what was done to them, they have survived and asserted themselves. Those who came from overseas battled to build a new home and consistently had to face off British rule, its colonial administration and the carpet baggers who came here, working hand in hand with the British bankers and wool mill owners, to take control of the land, political life and law of the colonies.
Settlers had to fight these people to build Australia. A high point was the eureka Stockade rebellion. Its impact was to build a political movement that ended the separate colonies and created Australia as a nation on 1 January 1901.
This was Australia Day until 1994. If there is a tradition, this is where it is.
Federation did not completely achieve Australia’s independence from Great Britain. Some vestiges of the old colonial status remained, and so did significant financial and trade dependency.
Nevertheless, it was the result of a collective effort to assert an independent nationhood, that traces back to the eureka uprising in 1854. Many have suggested that 3 December, which is the date of the battle at the stockade should be our national day.
Whether it’s on the anniversary of Federation or the Eureka Stockade, Australia’s national day should be about the people of Australia. It should honour our strengths and look forward to build a better future.
Ours is a society under construction. We can be proud about what we have achieved. But what we have yet to achieve is far more important. Real nation building is about realising a fairer and more inclusive society.
The next step is put an end to a farce built on a lie.
Change the date.