Contributed by Joe Montero
Feedback from my previous article on Australia Day has attracted supportive feedback. Since it was published there has also been a build up of comment around Australia, revealing that support for changing the date is more widespread than had seemed to be the case.
Being 16 January, this is a good day to make some additions to the previous comment.
Before progressing to anything else, how in the world can the population be brought together on a date that insults a part of it? For the First Australians, the landing of Captain Cook symbolises the beginning of the brutal destruction of their society. On this point alone. It is divisive and should be changed.
There is also more to it, and if this part is appreciated too, it becomes obvious that sticking to 26 January does not make much sense for white Australia either, and this brings the possibility of coming together, as an irresistible force to bring about change. Building this unity must be a priority.
Those who continue to, do or die, insist on this day, are missing the point. Australia did not emerge as a nation, or inherit democracy, because a sea captain planted the flag. Colonisation established a penal colony, destroyed the indigenous society and brought in marshal law in a system that soon took the form of dependency on the slave labour of the convicts.
This was hardly a bastion of democratic rights, kindly handed over by the British Crown.
Rights that developed in Australian society through time, were won by those who lived here. Settlers fought hard to make a living and have a voice. The First Australians fought back and survived against the odds. Former convicts played their part.
The rise of a working class brought in a union movement that was ahead of its time and it led to working and other conditions that were the envy of many other countries. Australia was the first country to have the eight-hour day, introduced universal suffrage, led the world in giving women the vote and much more.
Collective effort forged the nation.
It is the efforts of those who lived here and new arrivals, despite some shortcomings, which managed to forge a truly multicultural society, where each part contributed to the mix and formed a uniquely Australian identity.
The decision that Australians must make is whether to celebrate the imposition of the British flag or the efforts made by generations of Australians, to make this a better place to live in.
The suggestion that Britain brought civilisation does not hold water. It also implies that there was no civilisation here before. This is clearly wrong.
Westernisation might have brought new technology and a new set of social relations based on the market in capitalist terms. This has not been all good. Far from it. Everything and everyone has been commoditised. The me first ethos, has replaced collectivism from the dominant position. Serious environmental damage has been made, and poverty exists where it was once absent.
Britain was compelled to eventually grant home rule and allow for the colonies to federate into Australia in 1901. It may have come from an act of the British parliament. But the demand and effort came from the colonies. If this compromise had not been made, chances are that the rebellion would have reached a higher pitch and resulted in a more thorough break from the colonial power.
The reality today is that 26 January has little traction with most Australians. A large number might celebrate the occasion, but they are not celebrating Captain Cook’s arrival. Recent polls suggest that most are quite comfortable about having the date changed.
The reason why 26 Janaury is used, is because during World War Two, it was established by the then government, as Australia’s National Day, to whip up anti-Japanese feeling. It is only in recent times that it has been known as Australia Day.
So why isn’t the move made? Because there are vested interests that want to wrap the nation in chains of obedience, to the political elite and its vision of the divine right of wealth and privilege.
This has been the other trend In australian history, since the arrival of the First Fleet. There have always been those who attach themselves to the coat tails of power, and use the drum of racism, division and diversion to hoodwink the rest of us.
Anyone questioning this is labelled as divisive and un-Australian.
It is those who work to pin us to a foreign flag and use jingoism to divide us into separate camps that are the real un-Australians.
At the same time, there remains a significant part of Australia that feels threatened by the debate and should not be regarded as an enemy, by those who want to bring change. These people are entitled to be respected and listened to. Most can be won over.
The great majority of Australians, can come to realise that we do not have to accept what the elite imposes on us. We can take genuine pride in who we are, through celebrating an Australian identity, which resonates with what we truly are and on a date with relevance.
NB:Readers have inquired about whether above can be used by others. There is no copyright and is in the public domain. This means that anyone can use it.