The Liberal Premier of Tasmania, Jeremy Rockliff, has recently called for a change of date for Australia Day. He believes the current date, January 26th, is “divisive”. Yet isn’t what he suggests, divisive? A push for new date is now promoted by various municipalities without any reference to those who live within their boundaries. If mayors and aldermen are so convinced, the best way to show that they reflect the majority’s Will, is a simple municipal referendum.
There are very good and historic reasons why January 26th was chosen and should remain as Australia Day. To discount that particular date, shows a lack of historical understanding, and also a lack of appreciation of those who sacrificed so much. Aboriginal senator, Jacinta Nampjina Price, in an address to the Australia Day Council, January 24th, 2022, said, “Like the rest of the world our history is complex, our land is neither black nor white as portrayed by those who cherry pick to push their own ideological agenda.
“We celebrate on January 26th to mark the beginning on what we now call Australia”
Jacinta and others such as Warren Mundine recognise both heritages and to me that is a far more sensible approach. Indeed they can have the best of both worlds. Warren Mundine is on record as pleading to an end to the “’disgraceful debate over Australia which is dividing the nation”.
He went on to say, “It irritates me that every time it comes up in every year, the same old people come out and argue the same old cases, trying to divide the country when we should be trying to work together”. (16th January 2018)
Those aborigines in remote communities have more to be concerned about than a change of date, which will not help them in the least.
It is not uncommon throughout the world for a national day to be held on the anniversary of settlement. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, half English and half German, the settlement at Port Jackson took place January 26th, 1788. Phillip was a good man and an able administrator. He described the harbour of Port Jackson as one of the finest harbours in the world. It was not where he had originally landed. Eight days earlier, he had done so at Botany Bay, but finding it unsuitable and discovering a far more acceptable site he moved the settlement where he and those who accompanied him landed January 26th. For the first number of years, it was a raw, harsh society, but gradually it improved and finally the scourge of convict transportation ceased. Most of the descendants of convicts became amazing citizens of our country and added to the success of it.
It is easy to criticise our early settlers by claiming they exploited the land, culled the native wildlife, and introduced non-native animals and flora. Yet how else could it have been? Forests had to be cleared for building and for the production of food. Stock had to be introduce which eventually, as with sheep, provided incredible wealth for the nation.
There are those who believe the new day for Australia should be January 1st, (1901) when Australia was federated. Yet without the beginning on January 26th and the aftermath of progress there would no nation of Australia.
Politicians do not necessarily represent the electorate, yet there appears to be this opinion that once in a position of influence they have the right to thrust their point of view on the rest of us. Polling and research show that only a minority of Australians support changing the date. As for the day itself there is no day on the calendar that is more unifying for Australians than 26th January. This marks the day we all started the journey to build on the great egalitarians, liberal democracy with the many freedoms, (although often abused by governments as we have recently witnessed) opportunities and law and order that go with it.
To my way of thinking bringing up issues such as changing the date for Australia Day is a diversion. We saw this in New Zealand of late when the National Prime Minister, John Keys, pushed for a new flag. New Zealand was facing and still is, like Tasmania, growing problems. John Keys gambled and was quickly voted out of office. I am not sure how Mr Rockliff’s proposal will help solve our State’s many problems such as our growing debt of billions, health services concerns, inflation, the escalating cost of petrol and energy with our young people unable to buy their first house, let alone able to rent. I have now seen in Hobart, what I thought I never would, people living in the streets and now am told tents are appearing at Kangaroo Bay. Mr Rockcliff, how is your proposal going to help our fellow Tasmanians?