It’s Australia Day! A day for Australians to celebrate their values, freedoms, and pastimes. For many, it’s a day for BBQ in the backyard, spending time with mates, and proudly hoisting the country’s flag. Although Australia Day unites Aussies in celebrations, there are some, particularly the indigenous people, who use the occasion to highlight the country’s inequities. Read on to know more about Australia Day, and what it means to the country’s citizens.
Australia Day is the national day/holiday of the country celebrated on 26 January to mark the arrival of the First Fleet in Australia. On this day in 1788, First Fleet under Captain Arthur Philip arrived at Sydney Cove. 11 convicts that landed at Port Jackson in New South Wales with Captain raised the British Flag, hinting the beginning of Great Britain. Sydney, since early days of the British Colony, marked 26th January with a variety of names, such as Anniversary Day, First Landing Day, and Foundation Day.
The name gradually evolved into ‘Australia Day’. In 1935, all other states and territories officially adopted the name. For the first 100 years, the day was celebrated mostly by people in New South Wales, focused on the anniversary of British occupation. But in 1979, the federal government began promoting and escalating Australia Day with less British and more Australians in the hope of unifying and gathering the increasingly diverse population of Australia. This explains why Australia Day signifies diversity in nature too.
The day officially became a public holiday in 1994 and as per National Australia Day Council, it’s “the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. A day to re-commit and make Australia an even better place for the future.” Additionally, a huge line-up of events takes place around the country, including concerts, beach parties, and parades that bring together communities from all cultures, but now everything will be different due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Now talking ironically, for many Indigenous Australians, the day is not exactly the day of celebration or unity. Aboriginal people may feel proud of Australia but many of them mark the 26th as a date that is identified as the beginning of dispossession disease epidemics, frontier violence, dissolution of culture, exploitation, parting of families, and subjection of absolute social direction. Australians including Indigenous people also claim the day with different names like Invasion Day, Survival Day, and Day of Mourning.
In the last few years, conversation revolving around the changing date of Australia Day from 26 January has slowly turned as a mainstream agenda. This was additionally one of the challenging questions as people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people held and still holds a different perspective.
Saving the date means continuing to celebrate the painful day for many whereas changing the date or canceling means not addressing the trauma and disadvantage that started at colonization, affecting both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today. There were attempts to change the date and some of the selected dates and their reasons are mentioned below.
Under Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s guidelines, some of the words in the country’s National Anthem changed. It is an attempt to recognize and note Indigenous history. The Australian government will remove a reference to the country being “young and free” in the national anthem as the concerns were rising over the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for tens of thousands of years old.
The change is aimed and would foster a “spirit of unity” after a year of big challenges, from 1 January, the second line of Advance Australia Fair will say: “For we are one and free” is substituted in place of “For we are young and free”.
This proposal won support from across the political spectrum, including federal minister for Indigenous Australians and right-wing One Nation party leader. Australia’s official anthem was last adjusted under the Hawke administration in 1984 from God Save the Queen to Australia Fair, created by Peter Dodds McCormick. The symbolic change comes at a moment when Indigenous Australians were facing notable difficulties in achieving equal opportunities.
It is a day of both pride and pain: there’s much to celebrate – but for many “Australia Day” is a difficult day, which helps people explore the two sides of the story and discover the truth about the history of this land. There are the things that happen on this day, which might be hindered because of the Coronavirus pandemic but some of them are –
The celebration of Australia Day mostly reflects the plural character of modern Australia along with the complex and contested nature of its culture and identity. For more details related to Australia Day, keep reading Short News in 30 Seconds – AlShorts.