Scott Morrison says January 26 "wasn't particularly flash" for First Fleeters either.
Scott Morrison has come under fire for mounting an unusual argument about why January 26 is a tough date for some people.
The Prime Minister said Australia Day - also known as Invasion Day - was an important date to reflect on how far the country had come.
He spoke about the experience of those aboard the First Fleet, who raised the Union Jack for the first time on January 26, 1788 after arriving the previous week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the arrival of European settlers "wasn't a particularly flash day" for convicts on board, as he defended Australia Day being celebrated on January 26.— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) January 21, 2021
The PM earlier took a swipe at Cricket Australia: https://t.co/4QfDkIyWX4#AusDay #9News pic.twitter.com/hDpOjmHbWx
"On Australia Day, it's all about acknowledging how far we've come," Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
"You know, when those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, it wasn't a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either."
The Prime Minister is a descendant of William Roberts, who came to Australia as a convict aboard the Scarborough in the First Fleet.
Critics have accused Mr Morrison of drawing a false equivalence between those aboard the First Fleet and the experience of Australia's Indigenous people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were living on the continent for more than 60,000 years before the British arrived, and have since endured widespread massacres, oppression and dispossession.
For many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, January 26 is a day of sorrow and mourning.
Indigenous Greens senator Lidia Thorpe said it was disrespectful and offensive to compare the experience of First Nations people with those aboard the First Fleet ships.