January 26: Stuff all to do with us Sandgropers

TIM MUIRHEAD is a Fremantle resident who specialises in community and cross-cultural relations. He is the author of Finding
Heraan and Weaving Tapestries: a handbook for building communities. In this week’s SPEAKER’S CORNER he argues that we should change the date of Australia Day.

January 26th. Have we no pride?

What date Australia Day?

Truth is, most Australians I’ve spoken to, when pushed, don’t really care about the actual date.

They just want to be able to enjoy a national day.

One group, of course, does care about the date.

Many Aboriginal people find it, well, inappropriate.

But what about the rest of us?  Why do we care so little? Have we no pride?

Why would we thoughtlessly celebrate a date — January 26, 1788 — that has nothing to do with our nationhood?

It’s embarrassing!

Here’s five reasons why I reckon we should change the date.

It wasn’t the date our nation began. That happened on January 1, 1901.

There was not even any intention, in 1788 to found a nation.

They just wanted to expand Great Britain, and deal with horribly high incarceration rates.

If anything it should be a British holiday, not an Australian one.

Isn’t it time we let go the apron strings?

It’s got nothing to do with us in the west.

WA wasn’t founded until 1829.  January 26 (well…Februrary 7 really) was, at best, the beginnings of NSW.

It wasn’t, obviously, the beginning of ‘settlement’.

That had happened 40,000 to 60,000 years earlier.

• Fremantle council’s alternative Australia Day celebrations on January 28. File photo

Invasion

And, of course: it marks the beginning of invasion and dispossession for those cultures that had nurtured and shaped our land for tens of thousands of years.

Surely, if we had an ounce of pride in our island home, we would honour those cultures, rather than ignoring or insulting them.

So …why can’t we find a day that has something to do with our nationhood, or at least with what we love about the place?

What about the day, in 1901, when we first became a nation, or the day when our first parliament met? (That would celebrate our nationhood.)

Or the day, in 1983, when we finally extended the vote to all people, regardless of gender or race? (That would celebrate our democracy.)

Maybe we could choose the day, in 1984, when Australians ceased to be subjects of Great Britain? (That would celebrate our independence.)

Or wait…what about a day that doesn’t mark a historic date at all, but says something about us today?

I asked at the beginning: ‘why do we care so little’? But maybe that points to one of our more endearing qualities — we’re a ‘carefree’ mob.

We don’t take ourselves too seriously, we like good weather, and we love a long weekend. So on that basis, what about, say, the third Friday in February? Good weather. Long weekend. Nothing too serious.

I dunno. What do you reckon?

Let’s at least TALK about it!

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