It should be obvious to all that as Australia Day comes around each year, there is a clash between the desire to commemorate who we are as a nation and Captain Cook’s planting of the flag, which marked the colonisation of the land and the dispassion of the original inhabitants. The two should not be mixed.
Nor does January 26 mark when Australia became a nation. Captain Cook did not make Australia. This was achieved by millions working together over generations. Both those who were here originally and those who came afterwards.
The day on which this is observed should not be tainted by a wrong committed in the past. Australia Day should be moved to another date.
There is nothing wrong in being proud of who we are. We have much in common that binds us together. Parts of this is the reality that that we came from many lands and together forge a unique and new culture and tradition. Each contributes a part to the whole.
We are not Australians because we disposed another people, but because for generations we have worked to build a better place. There is rebelliousness as well. Australia was carved by a combination of the original inhabitants and those who came here, escaping the old world order, where only a few had the wealth and privileges.
Engraved in our history is the Eureka rebellion, an early expression of multiculturalism that stood up against injustice and privilege in the hands of a few. The rebellion led towards nationhood and formal independence. How can Australia Day really be observed without paying tribute to the heroes of Eureka?
December 3, the anniversary of the rebellion, would be a good time to observe Australia Day.
Recognition must be given to the generations of men and women who by their effort forged the rights that are now taken for granted. None of this was willingly given. Every scrap had to be fought for. Australia was the first country to win the eight-hour day. We won the vote for all, pensions, public education and health and much more, before most other countries.
It took blood, sweat and tears to build the cities, factories, offices and farms. This was not the achievement of a handful of leaders and money bags, but of millions working together. How can we have a proper notion of what it is to be Australian, without valuing this collective effort?
We have achieved much together. We have a right to have pride in this. Above all else, this is not so much about sentimentality, but taking on the responsibility of not letting past achievement slip away and about improving on them and handing down a better Australia to those who come after.
Recognition must also be given to the need to overcome the negatives of Australian history in order to move forward. The dispassion of the original Australians must be addressed, so that they can achieve sovereignty and self-determination and we can walk together as equals. Our forebears fought against the power of money and privilege. This is unfinished business and is our responsibility to continue the battle.
Australia Day needs to incorporate all of these elements.