Australia Day

Celebrating January 26 is a state-sanctioned exercise that rubs salt into the wounds of Indigenous Australia. It proclaims, “You lost, we won. Know your place.”

But the desire for an honest conversation about modern Australia's origins in the violent and ongoing dispossession of Indigenous people is not going away.

Across the country Invasion Day marches were both bigger than ever, and took place in many more places. More local governments have dropped their January 26 activities and finally the ABC allowed Triple J to shift its Hottest 100.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a disingenuous pitch for “unity” and “honesty” in response to Byron Bay Council’s decision on September 20 not to celebrate Australia Day, in deference to the hurt it engenders to Indigenous peoples.

If you’ve had the misfortune to watch former Labor leader Mark Latham’s video on changing the date of Australia Day you’ll know how desperate the debate has become.

Latham presents a world of full surveillance, where citizens live in fear of their secret lamington and lamb celebrations of our wide, brown land being discovered by the unseen politically correct police — followed by a call by Alice Springs town councillor and Warlpiri woman Jacinta Price to not be ashamed to celebrate Australia’s national day.

Moreland City Council took a big step forward on September 13 when it voted to drop all references to January 26 as Australia Day out of respect for Aboriginal people. But it stopped short of cancelling its official Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

What local councils do or don’t do on January 26 has burst into the national political debate, and what a good thing that is. No matter the frantic condemnation from the corporate media or the pompous and arse-about assertion by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that councils were “using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians”.

These opponents of an honest examination of Australia’s history may want to shut down the conversation but the opposite has happened.

Alone among Australian councils, the City of Fremantle in Western Australia recognised that January 26 is a date that many Australians do not want to celebrate and instead decided to celebrate with culturally-inclusive public activities two days later. 

Photos from Invasion day rallies across the country where thousands of people marched for Aboriginal rights. Always Was! Always Will Be! Aboriginal Land! Sydney Photos by Zebedee Parkes
Every year it becomes harder to ignore official Australia's celebrations of nationalism. For weeks, supermarket aisles have been given over to garish displays of things to buy for Australia Day on January 26: Australian flags and hats, stubby holders and thongs displaying Australian flags. None of it would look out of place at a Reclaim Australia rally. And then there is that ad for lamb featuring popular SBS broadcaster Lee Lin Chin. It is tongue-in-cheek, for sure, showing a military operation to enforce Australians worldwide to barbecue lamb for Australia Day.
Sydney’s Botany Bay was named by Captain James Cook while he was investigating this “great Southern continent” for the British empire in 1770. His exploration led to the First Fleet’s settlement in the area on January 26, 1788, and the beginning of 226 years of massacres, dispossession and abuse of the land’s first people. So the graffiti discovered along the western shoreline of the bay reading “Fuck Australia Day, no pride in genocide” and on the front of Captain Cook’s heritage cottage in Melbourne labelling January 26 “Australia’s shame” had a symbolic point to their messages.

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