Redating Australia Day

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The date of our national day is a cruel joke, writes Dean Frenkel.

Political correctness is the biggest obstacle to changing the date of Australia Day.

This does not refer to the brand of political correctness that right wingers bleat-on about, but an older form that has not been acknowledged but still dominates: right-wing political correctness.

Liberals are using their own version of ‘political correctness’ as a propaganda tool to wedge Labor and discredit change advocates. Strangely, Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke knows of no reasonable argument to change the date. Trade minister Steven Ciobo thinks the change campaign is “an attempt to delegitimise the significance and cultural impact of Australia Day”.

Yet the case for maintaining the status quo and persisting with January 26 is empty.

In short their best arguments can be presented as questions: Why are Australians not allowed to celebrate their national day when every other nation is allowed to celebrate their national day?

Shop-Sparkke_Banner_300x250The answer: In simple terms, it is insulting, at best, and more likely an act of war to celebrate our national day on the anniversary of the invasion.

Why is patriotism in Australia so discouraged when it is perfectly acceptable in other countries?

The answer: Because love of country is far more substantial than politically correct expressions that descend into waving the national flag, and standing for the national anthem. Generally, Australians are too smart to fall for jingoist propaganda. Indeed, every time white supremacists wrap themselves in the Australian flag, the flag itself becomes synonymous with extreme right wing politics.

But isn’t Australia a better place because of the invasion and occupation? Well, if we focus just on the environment, Australia has never been in such bad condition; more damage has been done in 230 years of modern occupation than in 60,000 years of Aboriginal stewardship. Many indigenous species are now endangered, and the absolute majority of Australian land has been exploited and irretrievably changed for the worse.

The arrival of the First Fleet marks the biggest change to Australian history since humans first inhabited Australia. From that day most Aboriginal people became dispossessed from 60,000 years of connection to country. And given their substantial connection with the land, it marked the beginning of the removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional culture. But most offensive is that since January 26, 1788, Aboriginal land, culture and people have been subjected to genocide.

It is just so obvious that celebrating January 26 as our national day is more than offensive. It is a rude joke in a country that names swimming pools after drowned ex-prime ministers and erects statues and bollards to commemorate pioneers and mass murderers.

When the date for Australia Day is eventually changed, it will mark the day that an adolescent nation starts to grow up.

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Dean Frenkel

Dean Frenkel is a Melbourne writer and communications expert.

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