by Adam Carlton
After conducting a survey, which showed that most people in the municipality wanted Australia Day shifted from the 26 January, an inner-city council in Sydney voted to drop the its Australia Day celebrations.
Inner West major, Darcy Byrne, said it was the “the right thing to do.”
Residents will instead be invited to attend the Indigenous Yabun festival on the day.
He said, “For Aboriginal people, the date represents the beginning of colonisation, dispossession, the removal of children and deliberate destruction of language and culture.
“A growing number of Australians want that to be respectfully acknowledged.”
A citizenship ceremony will still be held on January 26, while the citizen of the year awards and a summer festival will be held on different dates.
This potentially could put the council into conflict with the New South Wales government. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, she was proud of celebrating Australia Day on January 26 and did not want the date changed.
“I feel that that is the day that all Australians know,” she said.
But if the Inner West survey is any reflection on changing attitudes in Australia, the premier is out of step.
There is also a myth about the tradition of 26 January, suggesting that it has deep historical roots. It doesn’t. The date came in in 1935. Before that it was celebrated on different dates in the different states.
It was shifted to this date because it marks the landing of Captain Cook.
To First Nations Australian, this marks the beginning of colonisation and the loss of their land, massacres and the end of self-determination. It is offensive to them.
Secondly, the Anglo-centric nature of the celebration does not reflect the multicultural nature of Australian society today. We are far removed from being a British colony and Australians are not British.
Embracing the cultural legacy of the place of origin of those whose ancestors came from the United Kingdom has merit. But so does embracing the legacy of those who themselves or their ancestors came from other places.
Not recognising this, locks out a very big part of Australia.
By not recognising 26 January, the Inner West council is in line with this, and a number of other councils around Australia. They stand for the nation as it really is.