Destructive. Divisive. Disrespectful.
Those are not words many countries could use to describe their official national day. We’re largely on our own in that regard.
Every year the debate over whether to celebrate Australia Day on January 26 rages around the country and this year has been no different.
Both the Prime Minister and Opposition leader have weighed in, saying it should stay the same, while thousands of protestors are expected to again hit the streets on Sunday to protest against what they argue is a day of mourning.
The New Daily wanted to know what you thought, so we asked.
Perhaps indicative of how heated this debate has become, in just under 48 hours, almost 4500 people voted in our survey – we asked what you thought about shifting the date, and your reasoning behind it.
The result was emphatic.
An overwhelming 60.3 per cent of our audience want Australia Day shifted from January 26, compared to the 39.7 per cent who are happy with the way it is now.
Political punters would call that a landslide.
Moving the date came out on top in every state and territory. In New South Wales, 61 per cent of respondents voted to change the date, the ACT had 72 per cent, Victoria 63.3 per cent, Queensland 56.5 per cent, South Australia 55.9 per cent, Western Australia 53.7 per cent and in Tasmania, 63.7 per cent of respondents said they favoured a shift.
So why change it?
Many ‘yes’ voters argued they did not feel comfortable celebrating a day that symbolised the start of oppression for Australia’s First Nation’s people.
“Jan (sic) 26 is a day of mourning for a significant group of Australians – our First People,” wrote one responder from Sydney.
“A celebration of Australia should happen on a different date so we can have a day of reflection on 26 Jan for the broad Australian population to become familiar with the atrocities that have been committed to the Aboriginal people since white settlement.”
Among the ‘no’ voters, a common sentiment was the current date marked the start of human rights crimes against our indigenous population but thought changing it would do little to right the wrongs of the past.
“The wrongs of the past will not magically be forgotten,” wrote a responder from Perth.
“Nor will they be easier to accept, if the date moves. They will still be a scar for the indigenous community. The past cannot be undone. Changing the date won’t fix a single thing.”
Another, from Queensland, wrote: “The development of our modern-day Australia would have to be described as a ‘warts and all’ process, especially in regard to the brutal treatment of the original Australians and the disregard for them as fellow human beings.
“I feel that our society has mostly learnt from the mistakes of the past and hopefully can move on.”
Some no voters expressed concern that if we changed the date we may enter a ‘slippery slope’ that put other important dates like Christmas at risk of being moved.
Of course, on both sides, there was the occasional culture warrior.
“Why should we pander to a bunch of Marxist w–kers. I live out western QLD,” wrote one, well, Queenslander.
“I don’t know a single Aboriginal out there who gives a s–t about the date or even the day … Like most of us. We actually have lives to live and properties to look after.”
On the other side, some argued that many of our dates don’t have historical significance.
“We choose any date for the Queen’s Birthday,” wrote a responder from Brisbane.
“Why persist with the current date which is hurtful to Aboriginals? The only date with a ‘claim’ is New Year’s Day.”
Several ‘yes’ voters suggested we change Australia Day to May 8 (Mayte Day) but a big case against this, as one ‘no’ voter from Sydney, pointed out is that: “May 8 is too cold for barbecue.”
In an interesting twist, several ‘yes’ voters didn’t swing that way because they felt it represented an invasion, but because it was too focused on NSW.
“(January 26) is the establishment of the colony of New South Wales – not the Commonwealth of Australia,” wrote one, who perhaps unsurprisingly, lives in central Melbourne.
“Unite not divide. It is about the colony of Sydney, what about the rest of the country. Surely Federation Day would unite more,” said a Tasmanian.
Others just found the date inconvenient, with a responder from Adelaide saying it was: “Too soon after Christmas.”