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Why I Don't Celebrate Australia Day Anymore and Why It's Still an Important Day for All of Modern Australia

1938, 150th Celebration of European Settlement.
President Patten (right) reads resolution,
"We, representing the ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA ...
on the 150th Anniversary of the whitemen's seizure of our
country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous
treatment of our people ... AND WE APPEAL to the
Australian Nation of to-day ... for FULL CITIZEN
. ..This image is part of the collections of the
State Library of NSW.
January 26th is recognized as Australia Day in Australia (obviously). It marks the 1788 landing of the First Fleet and raising of the Union Flag of Great Britain by Arthur Phillip at Sydney Cove, a small bay on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour.

For modern Australia it's a holiday and a day of celebration, with the Federal, State, and even Local Councils, handing out awards for achievement at various events. Quite often citizenship ceremonies for new Aussies are performed too.

However, over the last few decades, momentum has gathered for the day to be recognized as a national day of mourning, since the arrival of the first fleet marks the beginning of Indigenous Australians being forcibly removed from their lands. For those first nations people Australia Day has come to be known as either Invasion Day or Survival Day. 

The problem for me being, Indigenous people do have a point, but at the same time the date is significant to what Australia has ultimately become. Many people have called for the date of Australia Day to be changed but the fact is, historically, January 26 is the day modern Australia began, for better or worse.

Personally I feel Australia Day should absolutely recognize both events the day represents. Perhaps in a similar way we celebrate ANZAC Day with the morning being a time of remembrance for those wrongs and the many people lost, and the afternoon being a time of celebration, reconciliation, and looking to the future. Recognizing that we are trying to right the wrongs of the past and moving forward with a more inclusive national community.

Currently the holiday, each year, spawns a growing debate over what the day represents, with protest marches by people who would rather have a day of mourning, contrasted with largely white Australians celebrating the day, because that's what you do on a day that's supposedly about being a proud Australian.

The media shows the extremes of the the debate which, to me, makes the discussion from both sides seem very toxic and untenable. It doesn't seem like anyone is willing to compromise. It has to be a full day of mourning or celebration, there is no middle ground. 

I don't want to upset anyone by celebrating but I'm upsetting people by not celebrating. Probably even being called 'unpatriotic' or even 'woke'.

Consequently I just can't be bothered even acknowledging the day anymore. It's a public holiday and I'm not proud to be associated with either side of the discussion.

If it becomes a national day of mourning why would I even show up to any events? That would be like a murderer showing up at their victims funerals. Hey look, your ancestors are responsible for this tragic history, great to see you here.

If we go that route it truly will be just a holiday for anyone without indigenous ancestry. May as well stay home, because going out will be, potentially, opening yourself up to abuse for what your ancestors did. That would definitely happen in some pockets. Particularly those backing the whole 'Invasion day' narrative, making it sound like the first fleet arrived guns blazing and stormed the beaches.

I'm not denying it was the beginning of some very dark times but calling the day 'Invasion day' isn't something you can really build upon if reconciliation is the goal.

I would, one day, like to be able to celebrate Australia Day on January 26th with, perhaps a bigger focus on what the day means for all who call this country their home. Remembering the wrongs of the past but also embracing, hopefully, a brighter future for everyone.

It is, after all, an important day, for everyone to acknowledge. What we are as a nation now, began on that day.


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