Monday, January 26, 2009

The Australia Day/Invasion Day Debate - My comments

I will start off by saying that I am happy to live in a country where 1) The stolen generation have received an official apology and 2) The illustrious award of 'Australian of the Year' has been given to an Aboriginal activist. Mick Dodson is a worthy recipient and both of these points show that Australia is becoming a more mature, inclusive country.

There are many other things that I love about my country. I love its wild and natural beauty and am thankful for the many environmentalists and others who have worked non violently for this to be reserved.

I am grateful children from poorer families are eligible for payments, subsidies and deferred fees so that they can continue their education.

I am grateful for national health insurance (Medicare) which has, essentially, saved my life from asthma attacks and allowed me to regain sanity after years of suffering from severe mental illness.

I am grateful for freedom of speech and religion. I can openly say I am a Christian, and express my views on this blog without the threat of government persecution.

I am grateful for democracy and the ideal that we 'little people' can have a say in how our country is run and keep it accountable to its stated ideals and promises.

I love Australia and I know no other country. But...Australia has a black history too.

In Tasmania it seems something akin to genocide was carried out. In the Northern Territory (my other home) Aboriginal people are disproportionately dying earlier from treatable diseases, incarcerated, losing their children, having problems with drugs and alcohol and being involved in domestic violence.

The 26th of January, to my suffering fellow citizens, is a celebration of a day when their country was invaded which led to many of the aforementioned problems.

I am not arguing to turn back the clock but, like Mick Dodson, I feel I must argue for a different day. If we truly want Aboriginal people to live as citizens in their own country we must also want to celebrate 'nationhood' with them.

To me this would involve a simple thing - changing the date of Australia Day - perhaps to the date when Aboriginal people were granted citizenship, and the vote.

Now that is something worth celebrating.

God Bless all my readers even those who will probably disagree with me (as I said previously it is, I think, a mark of a healthy democracy when we can disagree without fear).



  1. I agree that it would be good to have a day of national celebration that is one that can be celebrated by both the Indigenous people of Australia and the waves of invaders/colonists/immigrants who have taken over their lands and their culture. The difficulty would be finding a day that can be celebrated by all. Perhaps we could ask Indigenous people for some guidance, as I'm sure that those of us who are not Indigenous would be big-hearted enough to share in celebration of a day that brings joy to Indigenous people.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly - perhaps we should ask our indigenous 'Australian of the Year' Mick Dodson for some guidance.


  3. Well this is exactly what Mick wants - for everybody to start talking so that a real consensus may be reached. Then we can tell our government leaders what we have decided...

  4. Bob Carr wrote a great think piece in the Australian today that argues for a 'reinvention' of January 26. I think it has a lot of merit. You can read it here:,25197,24966994-7583,00.html

  5. Argh, the link did not publish properly, I'll have to break it across two lines, but paste them together when you try and use it:

  6. Thanks for the link. I got it eventually.

    A very interesting article and I agree that our 'civilisation' has brought some advantages to Aboriginal society.

    It works both ways, however, with Aboriginal art, dance, drama, humour etc bringing us some advantages too.

    But - in saying that - January 26 1788 is a day where a lot of what we (and our indigenous brothers and sisters) value in Aboriginal culture and lifestyle were placed under an ernormous threat.

    I stand by my opinion that the day should be changed.


  7. The best other date is January 1st, in celebration of Australia's independence from Great Britain. Unfortunately, that day is the same day as another holiday, this time worldwide, as it is New Year's Day. Other than that, we would basically be picking an arbitrary day, at least if/until Australia becomes a republic that is truly independent. Until then, I really think that we are stuck with January 26th. Like it or not, that is how it is.

    Of course, Aboriginal people in Australia are financially the best treated native people in the world right now, even ahead of the Maoris in New Zealand. Compare it to USA, where the Native Americans are forced to live on reservations, given no additional money for anything, and run casinos to try to get enough money to run their own societies. And yet even that is much better than the world norm.

    Australian aboriginals were badly treated, until 1960s or perhaps 1970s. Before then, they were not even considered to be humans.

    In the space of the last 40 or 50 years, they have been granted citizenship, land rights, health care, education and other welfare opportunities that are not only equal with the average citizen, but are far and away above the average citizen.

    The problem now isn't that aboriginal people in Australia are disadvantaged - that has long ceased to be the case. The problem is that they are today a priveleged people without any responsibilities associated. The solution isn't to give them more, it is to give them less. Treat them more as equals, and stop just throwing money at the problem. Come up with solutions that can work, rather than solutions which make it look like you are trying to help.

    Today, most of the problems with aboriginal society relate to the ease that they can get money and the lack of responsibility that they have to take over their own actions. They die young due to their own abuses of themselves, not because of abuse by external sources. Overuse of alcohol, caused by giving them too much money with too little responsibility, is a big factor in this. The legal factor, whereby aboriginal laws are not recognised in any Australian court, is another major factor.

    I think that we should unify. Stop pandering to the wishes of aboriginals, who, naturally, want increasingly more (as does everyone). Instead, aim for an equality that can be good for everyone, instead of one which is good for nobody.

  8. I didn't say to give them more welfare - that's a whole different issue.

    The issue I am raising is to change the date of Australia Day so we can include them in our celebrations.

    I am aware of the self-abuse and domestic violence, alcohol abuse etc in Aboriginal communities - of course they need to take some responsibility for that - as, I think, do we.

    Most Aboriginal people I know don't want more handouts - a lot want respect and consultation with their elders about government decisions.

    God Bless


  9. What an great post. Thanks for painting a balanced picture of Australia. I think your idea of keeping Australia Day but just changing the date is a brilliant idea.