Australians turn out in large numbers for Invasion Day

Photo by Darren England/EPA

Contributed by Joe Montero

Yesterday (26 January), big Invasion Day marches and other events were held across Australia. They were well organised and maintained needed Covid-19 social distancing and mask wearing.

This year, the invasion Day rallies took place in a changing context, where the wider public opinion is shifting. The scale of the Black Lives Matter movement last year had a major impact. So has the emerging political environment, where the population is increasingly questioning our political leaders.

Thousands gather for Invasion Day rallies across Australia

Video from The Guardian

Opposition to having Australia Day on 26 January is rising and support for the date is declining. A majority want the change. Only two polls have called it differently.

Nine News’ poll, which attracted a mere 1222 respondents and is heavily weighted to towards an audience much more likely to vote in the negative. Channel Nine something like Fox in the United States, and not adverse to using questionable methods. And the Murdoch organisation has been spreading through the rest of its outlets, this poll’s claim that only a small minority want the change.

The other poll championed by Murdock, is that of the right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPS). Its sample was also small at 1659, and it claimed 78 percent of Australians want the date to stay. Like Nine and the rest of the Murdoch stable, the IPS has been consistently partisan on this issue. They have been trying to sell the same story since 2017, even while other polls have consistently shown that the reality is different.

A different poll taken shortly before the 26 January, by the French Yubo. with 5,000 respondents, it found that more than 53 percent want the date to be changed.

Why the huge difference? One reason is that Yubo was not geared to produce the same result. It is a social platform that manly attracts younger people. Its poll is there fore weighted towards younger age groups. The others are weighted towards the 55 and older age groups.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to support the date change. This aside, the this poll is more consistent with other evidence and is more likely to be closer to the mark.

Attitudes are shifting. The call for change is now coming from many places, even from conservative ones. The wind is blowing hard enough to push the Morrison government into conceding there is a problem and that a wrong must be addressed.

The size of the Invasion Day marches and other events, is another strong indicator of a growing mood for change.

Photo by Darren Tranyon/Getty: A view of the march in Melbourne

This is prompting a shift at the core of the debate, around going past words, and taking up practical actions to address the realities of disadvantage, deaths in custody, and aim towards achieving First Nations sovereignty and self-determination.

The call for treaty is rising. This means a contract between the First Australians and later arrivals, guaranteeing rights, incorporating practical measures and looking towards the future.

The debate is also shifting towards what should be the foundation of Australian nationhood.

The Australian national identity should not be about celebrating the colonial takeover of a land and the subjugation of those who were already on it.

It should be about the collective, even if imperfect, effort to carve out a new society, and bringing all its parts closer together. This is a story about resistance to injustice, the notion of a fair go, and striving towards equality, and looking forward to doing better in the future.

If there is going to be a national day on another date, this is the stuff it should be about.

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