It’s not un-Australian. It’s not unpatriotic.
It’s not anti-fun or political correctness gone mad.
So for a group of people, particularly the people whose ancestors lived in this country and took care of it for millions of years, the 26th of January is always going to be Invasion Day.
Why do people get so upset about Australia Day?
Primary school history taught every Australian kid that on the 26th of January 1788, the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in NSW. Captain Arthur Phillip raised the British flag and declared Britain’s sovereignty over Australia. By planting that flag in the soil, Arthur Phillip announced to the world that Britain owned Australia.
Flash-forward some 228 years, and we’re celebrating that day with a public holiday and some form of meat product.
But not everyone sees the day that Arthur Phillip waded through the waves of Port Jackson as a day to celebrate.
Because Australia was already owned. There were people here. The people who had lived here for millions of years. The Aboriginal people owned this land millenia before anyone in Britain even thought about building a boat.
Indigenous Australians were brutalised by the British population. In some cases, entire communities were wiped out. They were treated like a slave race. Even into the 20th century, the Australian government stole the children of Aboriginal women.
The 26th of January was a day that British settlement in Australia began. But it was also the day that things went very wrong for the traditional owners of our country.
There’s a lot of pain associated with 26 January, and using a name like Invasion Day tells that story quite clearly.
Come on – Australia Day has been around forever!
Well, actually, it hasn’t. The title “Australia Day” was adopted in the 1930s – and all States and Territories only got together and consistently marked a public holiday in 1994.
Get over it – aren’t we all Aussies now?
Well, some people may feel that way. And even if you do feel like an Aussie and want to celebrate how much you love Australia, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily think that celebrating our country on 26 January is a great idea.
There are other dates that have been suggested – 1 January 1901 was when Australia became a federation of states. ANZAC Day is often thought of as a date in which the Aussie notion of ‘mateship’ was personified – but, in the same way that people think that the 26th of January is an insensitive date because it resulted in the death of so many Aboriginal people, no one wants to celebrate Australia on a day associated with the death of so many soldiers.
You can love Australia and not love that Australia Day is on 26 January.
But we have a ‘welcome to country’ and Indigenous artists perform at our Australia Day celebration.
That’s great. Recognising that the Aboriginal people are the traditional owners of this land is important – and celebrating with the culture that belongs to this land makes sense, where ever and whenever. But that doesn’t mean that people can’t be frustrated by the choice of day or the way that some people choose to celebrate it. Some Indigenous Australians are involved in the celebrations on 26 January and still think that erasing the dark history of the day is a problem. Some make the decision to not be involved and to spend the day protesting or celebrating Indigenous culture – or both.
I don’t want to call Australia Day “Invasion Day”.
You don’t have to. But you need to accept that other people do. And the best thing to do would be to spend the 26th of January understanding why people have strong negative feelings about the date. And why you might too, if this was the history of your ancestors.