Australia Day

Yesterday was our third Australia Day. In an effort to ‘integrate’ with the local community, we made the obligatory trip to our local (packed) beach armed with eskies of snags, lamingtons and VBs. We blended in with our fellow Aussies by moaning endlessly about the mortgage, the escalating school fees and Saturday’s 42C temperatures. Once the rain descended, we headed back home to watch the cricket from Adelaide and finished off the slab of VBs.

Many of our fellow beach-goers were dressed in yellow and green or had Australian flags tattooed onto their faces.  A number of the cars and houses were flying Australian flags.  It was a display of quiet patriotism that you do not encounter in England.    There are no grand ceremonies, no speeches from self-important politicians, no state processions and no organised silences where one is forced to remember someone or something. Just boardies, thongs, snags, slabs, stingers, sand and sea. We rather like Australia Day.

Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson, clearly does not

As an English patriot, i am very proud of my tiny island nation. I am proud of its history, its achievements, its advancement of liberty and its consistent ability to punch above its weight.  The establishment of a great country such as Australia is something we Brits are especially proud of and this little piece of history is (still) widely taught in our schools. Governor Arthur Philip and his band of crims and officers can lay claim to the title of some of our greatest exports.

However whilst i have no time for his welfarist policies, i do have some sympathy for Mr. Dodson.  Opting for the  landing of the first British fleet as your National Day of celebration does seem an odd choice. Whilst the achievements of Governors Philip and Macquarie should indeed be celebrated, the impact on the existing population was clearly not so wonderful.

I understand the day is now referred to as ‘Invasion Day’ in some quarters. This is plainly inaccurate but perhaps ‘Colonisation Day’ would be more accurate.

A poll for the SMH showed that a third of its readers would like to see the date changed.  Given its conservative readership, the national figure is probably even higher.

I can’t help but agree.  There has to be a better day for this nation to unite under the Australian flag.

55 thoughts on “Australia Day

  1. In my books, they should just change it to Federation day (Jan 1). However, since that is already a holiday, they could simply move it to the next non-holiday date, which would mean everyone would get an extra day holiday around New Year. That would be great for all the poor souls that have to work around that time. This isn’t out of the norm — it already happens for the Queens birthday, which is now always on a Monday.
    .
    Incidentally, I’m not sure why you think SMH has a conservative readership — I would think the average reader is probably slightly less conservative than the average person in Sydney. It basically targets a market that wants something slightly more than the tabloids.

  2. conrad – you’re right. i was confusing it with the Daily Telegraph. it’s probably reflective of the country as a whole.

  3. This will prove popular. On Auguat 19, 1770, Lieutenant James Cook claimed all of Australia for the Crown (possession Day). When we eventually get a republic we want, we could use this date and call it Repossession Day! Jan 26 could be relabelled Settlement Day.

  4. who wants a Republic? more politicians…at least the Queen has no grand plans to ‘save us’.

  5. I’m pretty happy with things as they are. Although I do think Christmas day should be moved to July so it corresponds with winter. 😉

  6. Bah… bloody pommies trying to change our Aussie Day! Isn’t it enough you invaded us? 😉

    Seriously though, I like it where it is. I see it as commemorating the beginning of the nation’s history, even though we didn’t actually become a nation until 1901 (Jan 1). Even then, neither women nor aboriginals had the vote (though in South Australia, I believe they both did)… so the country has evolved since that day, and gone through various changes. There may be yet more changes to come… should we keep changing the date?

    If we ever become a republic, we should make the start date on Jan 26th… that’d shut up the dissenters 🙂

    And while we’re on the topic of celebrations… I want my firecracker night back! Used to be on the Queen’s birthday holiday, but Australia Day would be as good as any.

  7. In one sense, you are right, Pommy. In fact, I want to extend the monarchic principle so we are ALL monarchs over our own property.
    But it would be popular because we add to the holidays! We could rename the Queen’s Birthday as Regent’s day, if the new position was called Regent, and we’d have this new day for the whole nation!

  8. I don’t see a problem with Jan 26. Modern Australia was ‘conceived’ at that moment, even though it wasn’t ‘born’ until Jan 1, 1901.

  9. One more thing: I noticed even more people than usual this year wearing Aussie flag emblazoned clothing. Personally, I think this is great. The more people wear it/display it, the harder it is for the powers-that-be to ban it…


  10. conrad – you’re right. i was confusing it with the Daily Telegraph. it’s probably reflective of the country as a whole.

    The SMH is a leftist rag and its polls always skew left. The national figure would be much, much lower than 1/3rd.

    The only other day that would make sense as Australia Day is Federation Day – and that holiday date is already taken by New Year’s day.

  11. I agree with the idea of changing it to May 27. This is the day that the nation finally classed all Australians as having equal rights. How can you expect someone who was classed as a non-citizen prior to that date in 1967 to celebrate anything prior to that date?

    The first fleets arrival was not the start of the Rule of Law in Australia as some suggest. Philip’s reign was one marred with punitive expeditions which are certainly not indicative of civil justice.

    I say May 27 1967 was truly the date ‘modern’ Australia began. I would think it would be a proud moment that any liberty minded person would embrace wholeheartedly.

  12. I don’t like the 26th as a date because it celebrates the foundation of the Colony of NSW. Since I am not a New South Welshman but a proud Queenslander I feel a much better day would commemorate the joining of the colonies to form a nation – that said we don’t actually have to celebrate it on January 1 – after all we don’t celebrate the Queen’s birthday on the anniversary of her birth, just on a day convenient for us.

  13. Ben — Aboriginals were already counted as citizens and could vote before the 1967 referendum. They were citizens as of 1948 (which is when all Australians became Australian citizens instead of British subjects) and their right to vote was confirmed in 1949.

    The 1967 referendum allowed the federal government to make laws regarding Aboriginals, and it had Aboriginals counted in census figures. These were appropriate changes, but not as ground-breaking as is sometimes suggested.

    How about we just allow each person to pick their own “Australia day”? 🙂

  14. Although I have to ask: is your commenting that the SMH has a conservative readership written out of sarcastic jest, or do you actually think that?

  15. Aside from the worthy reform to the census the 1967 referendum merely transfered racist powers from state governments to the federal government. And whilst 1948 confirmed the legal status of Aboriginies as citizens this legal status existed since federation even though in practice the law was ignored and Aborigines were generally (and illegally) blocked from entering voting booths for federal elections. They were also legally blocked from voting at state elections in many states until the early 1960s, although all states had reformed this obvious racism prior to 1967.

    January 26th remains the best date for Australia day. It is tradition and no other date can be claimed as having superior merit except perhaps 1 January. And if it was moved then Aborigines would not have the same regular opportunity to remind us of the difficulties in our past. I think it is useful to remember each year that Australia was colonised by Europeans at great cost to the natives. We celebrate birthdays even though they are painful occassions for the mother.

  16. “I say May 27 1967 was truly the date ‘modern’ Australia began.”

    Except by choosing that date you are in effect saying that anyone born before 1967 was not Australian, and anyone who died in a war prior to 1967 was not Australian, anyone who achieved anything prior to that date was not Australian, yadda yadda yadda.

    In short, it’s insulting.

  17. Tim – see comment #2

    most of the people i know in Sydney read the SMH (for no other reason than it has the word ‘Sydney’ in it). most of them would be oblivious as to its editorial stance.

    err, yes, the photo is from google. my wife wouldnt be too happy if i spent my day taking photos of teenage girls 🙂

  18. Well that is simply the last time I look to former AFL coaches for my Australian political history lessons.

    John I concede the date of May 27 may not be best but it still doesn’t follow that Jan 26 is optimal.

    Sam: I’m not sure I follow why picking a date that would proclaim that we think all human beings are created equal is somehow saying that those that came before then are not Australian. How is this so?

  19. I wonder if FEB 12th is planned as holiday? You remember? Sorry Day? Hang your head in shame, Whitie, Day?

  20. Don’t bother answering that woefully worded question Sam; Try these instead:

    Why would celebrating Australia day on May 27 mean anyone born before 1967 is not Australian? Does that mean that currently anyone born before 1788 was not Australian?

  21. It was a display of quiet patriotism that you do not encounter in England. I also recall stories of a Big Day Out around about 2005 when young “patriots” were walking around instructing people to kiss the Australian flag and beating them should they refuse. I think it’s the kind of patriotism most countries could do without.

  22. Yeah Nicholas, I can see people suggesting sorry day, next. It’s wrong to feel national pride. If we must have a national day, it should be a national day of shame (for white people, natch).

  23. Why would celebrating Australia day on May 27 mean anyone born before 1967 is not Australian?

    Because Australia Day commemmorates the birth of Australia as a country. To say Australia only came into existence in 1967 is not true, and by definition means anyone born before that date was not Australian, because Australia did not exist.

    If you would like a new holiday to commemmorate Universal Suffrage, then by all means go for it. However, don’t call it “Australia Day”. Australia Day means the birth of Australia, not the date your favourite Law was enacted. By some other person’s definition they might as well put Australia Day on the date the Mabo laws were passed. Equally stupid and insulting to the people that lived and died as Australians before that date.

    Does that mean that currently anyone born before 1788 was not Australian?

    Once they moved to Australia and committed themselves to living in Australia they were Australian.

    Definitely anyone who died before that time wasn’t Australian anyway.

  24. I also recall stories of a Big Day Out around about 2005 when young “patriots” were walking around instructing people to kiss the Australian flag and beating them should they refuse. I think it’s the kind of patriotism most countries could do without.

    This really has very little to do with patriotism and a lot to do with 18 year old boys being fuckwits, especially while drunk.

    A great many boys that age will use any excuse to initiate violence. The flag just gave them a prop to use for it.

  25. I see your point Sam. Just not sure I agree though. I don’t see the First Fleet as the reason our country is great. I see that we are great in spite of the fact that an ignorant remote government set up a clash of civilizations. A class that caused misery, hardship and violent death to many people.

    The fact that we have managed to put together such a great nation in spite of the hardships placed on us by the British is what should be commended.

  26. Ben – there was plenty of misery, hardship and violent death long before the Brits arrived. there was also plenty of that in Britain at the time.

    Life in Sydney pre-1788 was not one long fishing trip, whale-watching expedition, fireside sing-songs and sunbathing on Bondi beach. it was nasty, brutish and extremely short.

  27. I see your point Sam. Just not sure I agree though. I don’t see the First Fleet as the reason our country is great.

    The first fleet isn’t what made us great. But it is what brought the country into existence. And that is what Australia Day is meant to commemorate.

  28. So the arrival of Europeans made the place a country Sam? Nobody officially called it Australia for quite a long time after 1788 so that wasn’t it. Are you saying that the Nation was born because Europeans with the concept of a Nation-state arrived and set up shop?

  29. If Sam doesn’t, then I will! I think of the Aborigines as belonging to tribes, or clans, not nations. They were more like extended families.
    The First Fleet DID bring Western Civilisation, as well as varied undesireable extras, like dispossession, and new diseases. Western Technology gives the user greater control over the environment, and so it is superior in that it enhances the user’s ability to survive, and survival is all nature cares about. Also, Western civilisation has evolved, so that women have equal say to men. That was never found in any Aboriginal society.

  30. I don’t see the First Fleet as the reason our country is great

    Nobody is saying it is. They are simply identifying it as the start-point of our history as a nation, as it now exists.

  31. Regarding the SMH poll, it’s true that nationally those in favour of changing the date would be less than a third, but I was surprised to see two (unscientific) Channel Ten phone polls, one in Queensland and one in Victoria, both get about 20% wanting a change.

  32. Are you saying that the Nation was born because Europeans with the concept of a Nation-state arrived and set up shop?

    Pretty much, yes.

    This is definitely true for Australia, but probably not so for New Zealand because it can probably be argued that the Maoris already had set up a Nation-State by the time white settlers arrived – if only a feudal one.

    The Maoris already had a common language spread throughout the island (Aboriginals didn’t), and had a heirarchy of kings all of whom were presumably able to communicate with each other and enter into treaties as a joint entity.

    This was never true of the Aboriginal population of Australia, there were mostly a loosely connected group of unrelated, nomadic tribes.

    This difference explains a large part of the different course of relationships between indigenous and foreign people in the two countries.

  33. Jarrah,

    Interesting polls there…. not entirely scientific, but I have heard more than one person complain that 26th/Jan was the founding of the colony of NSW. But unless I’m mistaken, only WA could make this complaint with any validity, since all of the other states were originally included within NSW’s boundaries.

  34. I disagree, Sam. Australia didn’t suddenly become Australia in 1788.

    Until they all banded together in 1901 the colonies of Australia were just a loosely connected group of unrelated colonies with only origin and language in common.

    That said, I don’t object to Australia Day as long as we remember everything that made Australia what it is. The invasion and subsequent colonisation are important. The various waves of immigration are important too. We shouldn’t call it “Invasion Day”, but remember that invasion, colonisation and immigration are all part of our Australian history. Pride, shame and guilty are stupid emotions to feel for a nation- why personalise something we had no real part in? But we should feel a mix of gratitude and remorse for the successes and the mistakes of the past.

  35. I don’t see much harm if somebody occassionally and unofficially refers to the day as invasion day. So long as the debate they subsequently stimulate is open and enlightened. I suspect however that this provocation is going to lose it’s effectiveness due to over use. As in “yeah, yeah sure mate, happy invasion day, pass me another Tooheys would ya”.

  36. I don’t consider it an invasion at all – I think that’s playing loose with words. New Zealand was an invasion, but Australia was a settlement – where the settlers had skirmishes with the natives.

    As I said, Australia didn’t become a nation until 1901, but the 1788 date represents the beginning of Australia as we now know it.

  37. Considering all the ground we have covered in this thread, it’s safe to say that Jan 26 is a fairly arbitrary date. It certainly does not signify the birth of our nation. However what it does signify to many people is a time of persecution and misery. By saying that Jan 26 must be the date of our annual day off you are saying to those people: The day that marks the persecution and mistreatment of your ancestors is a day we think deserves to be celebrated.

    There are many days we could use for this holiday. Does that particular event really mean enough to you that you can’t pick another one in the name of moving on?

  38. European settlement of NZ was not an invasion. It was more like a broken (or perhaps simply misunderstood) contract.

    The treaty between the Brits & the Maoris still plays an important role in NZ politics. The whiteys didn’t always live up to their end of the bargain, and now the government is steadily offering restitution to each Maori community. This money is generally being put into managed funds and then used for the development of that Maori community.

    Terje — I think “invasion day” has already become a bit of a running joke for many. I used it a few times with a cheeky smile. 🙂

  39. Ben – other than that of convicts what particular misery and persecution happened on 26th January 1788. Misery was born on a different day. Maybe the 27th for example. So your position against the day is just as arbitrary.

  40. There’s nothing arbitrary about January 26, since this was the beginning of what would become Australia. January 1 isn’t arbitrary either, since this was the beginning of our Independence (republic notwithstanding). Other dates are arbitrary because they are merely midpoints in our nations continuning evolution. They may still be important – and may have made our society more “free” and inclusive – but as a libertarian, I would hope for more freedom still… do we change the day every time we get a law we like?

    When did 18 year olds get the vote? As late as the 70’s? Forget 1967, Ben – surely this was the point at which suffrage was maximised!

  41. Fleeced what about the day on which the order was signed to commission the first fleet? Or the day the First fleet set sail? How are these days any less historic than that?

    We can celebrate how tops Australia is on any other day and it would not make a lick of difference. In fact it would make it better as it would show we are a mature, reasonable and sensitive nation.

  42. Ben – other than that of convicts what particular misery and persecution happened on 26th January 1788. Misery was born on a different day. Maybe the 27th for example. So your position against the day is just as arbitrary.

    I guess it depends on where you stand on Res Nullius?

  43. Lieutenant Cook really did claim Australia for the British Crown on 19 August, in 1770 AD. That is the earliest claim that I have heard about. Why not reclaim this day, once called Possession Day, and call it Self-possession day? It would at least give us a holiday in the third quarter of the year, otherwise lacking.

  44. I think Humphreys founded the Liberal Democratic Party, so it should be on His birthday, OR the day of the founding of the Party!

  45. This is surely all academic? No doubt we are all morally opposed to the state interfering with voluntary transactions between employer and employee!

  46. Love Austrlia day, look forward to the day every year, I’m celebrating my 48th wedding anniversary on Australia Day.

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