The handwringing over Australia’s national day has now become such an annual fixture that is unlikely to go away until detractors have their way and they succeed in having it abolished altogether.
Regrettably, the left in Australia has embraced the era of the cancel culture enthusiastically with plenty of backers in the left-leaning media, led by the taxpayer-funded ABC, supporting every cause to redefine history and established cultural norms.
The claim is that Australia Day is an affront to indigenous Australians because it “celebrates” the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson and is, therefore, a commemoration of an invasion.
In fact, Australia Day is the official national day of Australia, which is observed on January 26 because it is a convenient date for a national holiday.
Because January 26 marked the formation of the east coast of New Holland as New South Wales, it was not always celebrated nationally – the fiercely parochial Western Australia in particular was never enthusiastic about the day.
All Australian states and territories did not adopt January 26 until 1935, and it did not become a fully national public holiday until 1994.
The ABC had already shifted its popular Triple J radio festival, the Hottest 100, away from January 26, but this year Cricket Australia took a bizarre decision – which it called a “leadership” position – to ban the term “Australia Day” from promotions for its Big Bash cricket games played on January 26, claiming it had taken the decision in order to “promote discussion”.
Cricket Australia was also planning for teams to be wearing indigenous regalia as well as staging a barefoot ceremony, a welcome to country message, and a smoking ceremony at the games.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison weighed in, saying the sporting organisation should have “a bit more focus on cricket and a little less on politics”.
Yet, and not surprisingly, Australia Day is very popular with most Australians. A survey conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs showed 69 per cent of Australians want the date to remain unchanged.
This is presumably because they get a day off work, and because it acts as a kind of official marker for the final weekend of summer, when the nation finally extracts itself from its summer torpor and officially gets back to work.
As indigenous affairs commentator and Australian Catholic University researcher Dr Anthony Dillon argued, the “average Aussie just wants the day left alone”.
“Because there is absolutely nobody who is celebrating genocide on that day,” he told News Limited. “They’re having barbecues and throwing a frisbee.”
But it is also a day when Australians are proud and grateful for the country they are fortunate to have been born in.
It is also quite likely that any survey would, contrarily, show that many Australians would not be aware of exactly what historic event the January 26 day commemorates.
Nevertheless, even conservative commentators have begun to concede that there is some discomfort about the date and that alternatives could be considered.
Angela Shanahan, for one, writing in The Australian newspaper, said that, while history is not dependent on dates, “as a milestone that marks absolute change, January 26, 1788, is pretty hard to beat”.
“It began our continent’s development as a modern Western nation, but it also began the almost complete disappearance of a way of life for the people who had inhabited our country for eons.”
Shanahan suggested January 1 – Federation Day – and the day the colonies came together as one nation as a more fitting day to celebrate.
The problem is that that is New Year’s Day and Australians already have a public holiday on that day.
Other alternative days have been suggested: May 9, the date Australia became a self-governing body in 1901; and May 26, which is currently “National Sorry Day”.
Then there are those who want it abolished altogether.
Any attempt to change the day will be extremely unpopular and another futile concession to the insatiable cancel culture.