In last year’s newsletter on the eve of Australia Day, I posed the question regarding whether there was an alternative date to consider rather than the 26th of January each year for the celebration of our nation. At that time, I could not find any feasible alternative which had any value. The simple principle is that, any date chosen must have historical relevance and historical accuracy.
I’m neither connected or opposed to Australia Day being 26th January each year. What I do see is dissension regarding the date, and most of all a heap of bullshit spoken. Let’s deal with that bullshit!
Persons in favour of the 26th of January as our date of celebration talk about it being the birth of a nation. That in itself is mythical. The 26th of January did not give rise to the birth of a nation, it gave rise to the creation of a convict settlement in Sydney Cove. At best it gave birth to the state of New South Wales.
As history shows, by the 1890’s, Australia had six different colonies, each with separate sovereign governments reporting to England; NSW, VIC, QLD, Central Australia, WA and TAS. These all had separate legislative councils and operated distinctly from each other. In fact, at the turn of the 1890’s, Australia could have ended up six separate nations until Henry Parkes posed the concept of nationhood.
To say that you cannot change a day is also unfounded. Just because we’ve always celebrated Australia Day on the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip in Sydney Cove, doesn’t mean that better dates can’t be chosen on the calendar. If it is divisive, it should only be allowed to be continually divisive if it has historical truth.
The 26th of January was the birth of NSW. It should be celebrated as that. Interestingly enough, every other state in Australia has its own Foundation or Federation day, leaving NSW to celebrate its Foundation Day with the rest of Australia. The 26th of January should be considered as NSW Settlement Day. It should still be considered significant. It was the start of European arrival in Australia and it led to significant benefits for the country. It may have affected the 300 or so indigenous nations in Australia at the time, but it is still significant.
The indigenous referring to Australia Day as Invasion Day is both divisive and quite frankly untrue. There was no invasion, there was a creation of a settlement of convicts which led to conflict between the parties in Australia. That conflict never entered into a war and to consider that it was an invasion is completely untrue.
Yes, the arrival of Europeans did have significance on the indigenous cultures. In some cases, we have reason to feel regret for the behaviour of our forefathers. This should not derogate from the benefits to the country that European settlement brought to the Australian nation.
The only reason Australia Day should be changed is if there is historical accuracy which gives credit to the change. We believe there is!
In the early 1890s, Henry Parkes organised a number of national conventions to create Australia. New Zealand even attended the first three conventions and then decided to go its own way. ‘In’ referendums ran in 1899 and 1900, there was an agreement to create a Commonwealth Government of Australia and all colonies to join as separate states in that federation.
On the 9th of July 1901, Queen Victoria signed the Australia Constitution Act, giving birth to the Australian nation. The Australian Commonwealth was then created on 9 July 1901. The true birth of a nation happened on 9th July 1901. This has true historical significance and accuracy regarding the birth of a nation.
In America, their national celebration is on 4th July, which was the American Independence Day from Great Britain. We are now seeing some significant parallels between what I am suggesting and what America did do. They didn’t celebrate the landing of the Mayflower as their national day, but their Declaration of Independence.
Should our indigenous have a day? Absolutely! The original people who lived on this land have a right to celebrate their history as much as European arrival in Australia. Why not fully depart from our ties to England and dispense with the Queen’s Birthday? It’s not even her birthday, that’s in April. We have a long weekend called the Queen’s Birthday without any real significance. The indigenous don’t have a date when they arrived in Australia 40,000 years ago. But why not make the June long weekend a celebration of indigenous culture. This is during the footy season, which has already embraced indigenous contribution to the various Australian Football codes.
I’m probably going to be shot for the suggestion because I’ve agreed with neither party as to the keeping or getting rid of the 26th of January Australia Day date. Nevertheless, why not:
- Make Australia Day 9th July, and call it Federation Day;
- Make the June long weekend an indigenous celebration; and
- The 26th of January becomes the celebration of NSW, one which has been sorely missed.
We are one nation of 25 million people. It’s about time we behaved like one, and not servicing just minorities or majorities. In 231 years, we have come further than most nations in that period of time. Why not celebrate everything about Australia in a true historical context.
This article was written by Bailey Compton, Principal Solicitor & Director at Leverage Group.
To get in touch with Bailey, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 438 538