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Australia Day: The contention is inescapable

Historian Henry Reynolds comments once more in John Menadue’s ‘Pearls and Irritations’ blog (23.1.23) on the resurfacing of debate and contention over Australia’s national day being marked on the 26th of January, a divisive date especially for First Nations peoples.

‘Contemporary Australia is not the wayward step-child of Britain. It was created in our own country. Is it time to establish an Australia Day freed from the dark shadows cast by the now discredited British Empire?

‘Debate about Australia Day began early this year. The Albanese government rescinded the regulations which forced local government to hold citizenship ceremonies on the 26th. Universities and corporations are rethinking policy towards the recognition of the public holiday. The University of Wollongong announced recently that staff were to be given the option of not recognising the public holiday in a show of solidarity with First Nations people citing the painful associations it had for indigenous communities.

‘… There are no doubt many other plans to change, and thereby to shield Australia Day, from its legion of critics. They are unlikely to be reconciled to the status quo. Too many unresolved problems remain. While few people would oppose the celebration of our diversity and resilience they could clearly both be commemorated on any other day on the calendar. Many studies show that Australians want to have a national day to reflect upon our distinctive characteristics and way of life. But there are few reasons to continue to stick with January 26th and far more cogent ones which point in the opposite direction.’

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