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Australia Day is a day set aside to commemorate
the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet at Sydney Cove
on the 26 January 1788. On the day of his arrival, Captain Arthur Phillip
declared the area that became the colony of New South Wales to be a British
possession. This landing started the first permanent European settlement
on this island continent. Australia Day, January 26, is celebrated with
a public holiday and celebrations in every State.
The choice of the 26 January as the day
of celebration for all Australians has been queried and argued by many
people. That the day might symbolize invasion, dispossession and death
to many Aboriginal people was a notion 'unfamiliar to the average Australian
until the later half of this century.' The Editorial in The Sunday Age
of the 23 January 1999, arguing for a change of date, stated that January
26 'can never be a truly national day for it symbolises to many Aborigines
the date they were conquered and their lands occupied.' Involvement of
the Indigenous community on Australia Day has taken many forms - forced
participation in re-enactments and mourning for Invasion Day, as well as
peaceful protests through the city streets.
Personally, Australia Day does not mean
a lot to me. As I was not born in Australia and only received my Australian
citizenship in 1995, I have never really seen the significance of the public
holiday; however one thing I do believe in, is that the date should be
changed. The government must find a day on which everyone can feel included,
in which everyone can participate equally, and can celebrate with pride
our Australian identity. I believe acknowledgement of the past is the first
step towards reconciliation. That includes recognition that since white
settlement (or invasion, as indigenous people experienced it) the Aborigines
were dispossessed of their land and the life that was lived on it.
The consequences of these experiences,
I believe are felt in every aspect of life. It is surely quite obvious
that we can predict terrible social consequences if a group of people have
not been thought of, or treated as human; if their families and communities
have been torn apart and if they have been dispossessed of their lands
and cultural traditions. Surely this is clear in the profile of Australia's
And while the historical aspects of the
26 January will always be acknowledged, there must be a greater awareness
of the need to celebrate modern Australia - a land of diverse ethnic makeup
and a land working towards reconciliation with its indigenous people. A
change of date for Australia Day, would give it a greater significance
to myself, as well as the wider community.
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Australia Day, Australian patriotism, Australia, Arthur Phillip, Nationality, Indigenous Australians, Human rights in Australia
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