Open forum: when should we celebrate Australia Day?

It is apparent that January the 26th isn’t the choice date to celebrate Australia Day for Indigenous Australians with many preferring to remember it as Invasion Day, being the anniversary of the day Arthur Phillip hoisted the Union Jack on Australian soil.

Many non-Indigenous Australians, too, don’t like that date as it links our past with our English heritage and in doing so, we do not celebrate something that helped forged our identity.

I’d like Australia Day to be the day when we one day become a republic, but that’s in the future.  Hopefully, not too far in the future.

Would anybody else like to see Australia Day moved?  I’ve put together a few dates which you may wish to mull over.  Or maybe you can come up with a better suggestion.  Anyway, here’s the list:

January 1:  the day of our Federation (1901) but also a public holiday in Australia, which doesn’t matter, we’ll have the next day off too.

April 25:  currently ANZAC Day but arguably the event that brings out our patriotism more than any other day of the calendar year.

June 3: in 1992 the High Court delivered the Mabo decision and effectively ended the erronous concept of terra nullius, belatedly recognising prior Indigenous ownership of the land.

September 25: in 2004 Port Adelaide won the AFL premiership.

October 25: in 1616 Dirk Hartog was the first European to set foot in Australian.

November 18: my birthday.  Why should I celebrate it alone when we can have one big party?

December 3: the Eureka Stockade began in 1854.

So on what date should we fire up the barbie?

Australia Day means BBQ

Image by J.Clarke via Flickr

110 comments on “Open forum: when should we celebrate Australia Day?

  1. Nah. Terrible day, Pip. Nuttin special happened then.

    We’ll cross that one off the list. Do come up with something better next time. 😉

  2. Can someone enlighten me when January became Australia Day and came about.

    I feel it was sometime in the 1950’s but I am far from sure.

    I do know that as far back as I can remember, there was a long weekend at the end of January.

    My memories as a child is that we celebrated Empire Day in May. That was cracker night in NSW.

  3. I like the idea of keeping the date and renaming it when we become a Republic and to have Mabo Day as a celebration of indigenous culture. Are we the only nation which doesn’t have a national day for it’s original inhabitants….

  4. Totally removed from all the above, and only 3 days before my birthday 🙂 Why not February 12th? That was the date that Edward Hargreaves first found gold near Ophir, NSW in 1851.

    In the following few years the population exploded. More immigrants arrived in 1852 than the total number of convicts transported in the previous 70 years. The population more than trebled from 400,000 in 1850 to 1.7 million by 1871. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, was the real beginning of modern Australia.

    It would also be good if people actually knew that. I get really sick of the ridiculous idea that we are all descended from convicts. As a genealogist, among other things, I’m very aware how lucky you are to actually pin down a convict in your family tree. It rarely happens. Most of us here for more than a few generations have a few gold prospectors though. Why not celebrate them?

  5. Cu, in 1937 Australian minted a stamp to celebrate the 150th anniversary of NSW, with the date recorded as 26 Jan 1788. Somewhere along the line the nation acquired the date as one to fuss over.

    I’m still searching for your answer.

  6. Valli, I can lay claim to one convict rellie.. A Cobner from Monmouthshire. Otherwise I come from a long line of agricultural labourers with the exception of my great grandmother who was a publican’s daughter..the Queen Adelaide in Kingsthorpe Northamptonshire.

  7. …and June 3rd, not Australia Day, but Mabo Day -a public holiday to celebrate the recognition of Indigenous rights to occupy and have possession of their traditional lands. Why should we impose the rest of us on their victory?

  8. Ususally I’m not one that would suggest mimicking the US, but here maybe we should. Let’s announce the formation of a republic, take the Union Jack off our flag, and get rid of the Queen as a head of state. Whatever day we do that, should be Australia Day.

  9. Thanks Min, I will follow up your lead. I do like the idea of Mabo Day, but I would need to have the support of the Indigenous people. *I like the idea of their flag in the corner but the same applies.

    Min, we have to move away from January the 26th. It is an important day, but it does not commemorate Australia day.

    Yes the discovery of gold was a very big day in Australia. So was some of the dates of the early explorers.

    It would be so much easier if we had a war of independence.

    Why did the Founding Fathers choose New Years Day. Maybe the date could be the day they made the decision to go ahead with Federation. Maybe the day the British OK the legislation in their parliament.

  10. Why not celebrate a great sporting event? I’m thinking of the day I took mark of the year and kicked the goal that sealed the match after we were trailing by 60 points in the third quarter.

    They stil talk about it. None so more than me.

  11. That timeline is interesting. It appears according to that article, the Indigenous people have always objected to the date, back to the 1930’s at least.

    The name Anniversary Day seems familiar to me.

  12. Well we did become Australians on that day for the first time. It appears before that,. Australians did not exist.

    I assume that applies the Indigenous as well.

  13. February 13, the day the Australian Parliament declared the Apology to the Stolen Generations. For the first time in my 42 years to that day, I felt that we had come together as one nation. We still have a long way to go, but that was a day when big rift was overcome.

  14. Cu, that was ’67 and the Referrendum. I had to look up the date, 27th May was the Referendum and 10th August it became law.

  15. Bugger, we already have a long weekend then in most states.

    Maybe the one we have now can come back to May Day, bringing all the states into line.

  16. The present date of 26th January is fine as it was on that date that Australia became a British Colony, which it still is. If any minority ethnic groups in Australia wish to celebrate other dates which have some significance to them and their `Identity’ then that is fine. The Chinese community celebrate a different New Year and Jewish and Muslim communities have their special days. When Australia becomes a Republic then it will be Independence Day, but Australia Day would still have a deep and relevant meaning for us all as subjects of the British Crown.

    Even after Independence Day, I shall be retaining my British citzenship as do many thousands of Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Vietnamese etc peoples.It is interesting that so much resentment and animosity is directed against British settlers, and yet none towards other ethnic groups who have settled in Australia. Could that be some kind of converse racism.?.

  17. Independence Day, whenever that will be, but I’d prefer it to still be called Australia Day. It’s a bit simpler for us than the Americans – imagine them celebrating The United States of America Day. 🙂

  18. When we’re old enough to accept responsibility for our history and embrace our future. So, yeah, probably never.

    Sorry marketers ~ it would out the kibosh on all that imported crap you sell people …

  19. Actually, if we are going to move it, we really need another public holiday in the winter months.

  20. I am ok just to rename it Invasion Day. Maybe make it the 3rd Friday in January so we can all have a long weekend?

  21. Why stop at drinks for my birthday on 15th February? Just turn it into Australia Day so it’ll always be a public holiday on my birthday and I never have to work on it again 🙂

  22. What about tack it onto Easter somehow, move the whole lot to say, oh, mid July, and we can all have a decent warm lie-in for a few days when it’s coldest … plus think of the boost it would give the “Snuggie” industry! Not to mention cocoa sales (free trade, of course) …

  23. Yes absolutely we need another date! This is the conversation we need to have. Given that Jan 26th will always be Invasion day…. Jan 1st as Australia Day ….how would that work? JAn 1st has quite a lot going for it! Forget Anzac Day… I do ! But for too many it’s an untouchable. Should a new date be mooted at a referendum? How will it be brought in?

  24. Jarl, in Australia, “the status of British subject was retained in Australian law until Part II of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was removed by the Australian Citizenship Amendment Act 1984. This came into force on the 1st May 1987.”.

    The whole concept of Australians being British subjects has been gradually removed over the decades, notable is 1973 Amendment to the Act being The Australian Citizenship Act.

  25. Just a note:

    Australia Day is also the day which the Tent Embassy was established. In the interim, before we become a Republic why cannot Australia Day include a special commemoration to mark each Anniversary of the Tent Embassy.

    This Australia Day was the TE’s 40th Anniversary however to my knowledge, there was no formal acknowledgement of this event. This inclusion might go some way to counter the feeling of many Aboriginal people, that being of exclusion.

  26. I think that we’ve moved on from being a British colony. To me, January 26 really only celebrates the hoisting of the English flag on Aboriginal land.

  27. Added to that, those of us who have even one British ancestor decreases by the year. A friend who is a 3rd generation Australian is a mix of Greek, Russian and Austrian.

  28. Yes, Min, and he/she is still an Aussie.

    I’m a bit of a mixture too, but I can still kick a footy, hold a cricket bat and I know where the dog on the tucker box is.

  29. Migs, I have often found that myself..that so-called New Australians often have more patriotic pride than those more easily identifiable as Australian. Perhaps it’s to do with more appreciation of what this country has to offer.

  30. Min’s right about the Tent Embassy. It’s important that we understand how Australia Day is not yet a celebration for all Australians. Events on AD this year are a reminder of that. I’ve been following the discussion here and at The Political Sword, as well as your links and Lyn’s Links too which re-started for 2012 yesterday. In the end I got quite obsessive and angry for the way the Coalition was so cynically manipulating the public about the whole hullabaloo which Tony Abbott himself had created. Only a polliepome would calm me down.

    Shoeless in Canberra!

    What a hullabaloo!
    Dame Julia lost her shoe,
    But Abbott lost the media edge
    And wondered what to do.

    Ignoring all the hullabaloo,
    Julia took back her shoe,
    Then got on with governing,
    Which made poor Tony spew.

    “I’ll make a hullabaloo!
    I’ll demand a police review!
    I’ll attack her credibility.”
    That’s what he thought he’d do .

    “It was just a hullabaloo.
    There’s nothing more that we can do
    To help you, Mr. Abbott, sir,”
    Report back the boys in blue.

    Then what a hullabaloo!
    The hissie fit he threw!
    “AFP conspiracy!” he yelled
    A shakeup’s overdue!”

    “Don’t give me hullabaloo!
    One shoe! I really needed two!
    You bastards should’ve let me through!
    I’d ‘ve grabbed the pair, stepped into them!
    Shoo-in for PM without a bloody coup!

    I couldn’t copy the pictures which I thought were really appropriate for this pome, but if you want to see them, along with my notes go to

  31. I really like the idea of a day to commemorate the Referendum. I like the idea of the Referendum as to me it speaks volumes that ordinary Australians of the day achieved something seen as a positive step forward – a huge majority ‘yes’ vote. That is something to be celebrated, to me. The actual day people went to the polls and voted yes.

    I don’t celebrate Australia Day or mourn an Invasion Day. I don’t celebrate Australia Day as for me, it would be wrong to ignore the harm that was done simply to be seen to be reconciliatory, forgiving or appeasing anyone. I am acutely aware that without colonisation, my life would be drastically different to how it is today, in particular I would be without the family I adore and I would not have had the wonderful friends from all over the world that are part of my most cherished memories (technology, highways etc are also pretty awesome). I don’t mourn an Invasion Day, but can see why it was dreamt up and labelled as such. I feel glad that I have more freedoms than even my parents had (having to ask permission to leave the mission to travel, whereas I can just go visiting family without asking approval from anyone), but it would be disrespectful of me to ignore that this was their reality, and for them, this day was not a happy one worthy of any celebration whatsoever. It is a day of many conflicting emotions from where I stand, and I am secretly glad when it is over and done with each year.

    I do think we need to work more actively on resolving this issue somehow, as it is a festering scab that opens every few years in a very ugly way (before Tent-gate, we had the Cronulla Riots) and we can do so much better.

  32. Hi BTS, one of my best mates said to me that he’s glad the white fella came hear, because without them he wouldn’t have footy and cricket. Gotta love him.

  33. Miglo, I’ve been thinking about this question for days, and I keep coming around to the date of the referendum in 1967.

    I wasn’t very old at the time but I remember that many people, until that time,
    did not know about all the restrictive laws and were rightly shocked.

    Shocked enough to vote for change in a very large block as it happened

  34. On a day when aboslutely nothing happened.

    When no whites invaded the country.
    When no indigenous beliefs, traditions or sacred events are happening.
    When no religious festivities or celebrations of any faith are happening.
    When no public events are happening.
    When no tragic events have happened.
    When no euphoric events have happened.
    When no lunar eclipses are planned.
    When abosutely nothing in the whole country has happened on that planned day in the past.
    Maybe then will everyone stop their spiteful self centred hatred and rambling excuses and actually celebrate as Australians, rather than individual races that happen to live in Australia with gripes, and chips on their shoulders.
    As for the actual date, I don’t give a rats a*se.

  35. I think that’s the message in the post Shane. For all Australians and where none feel marginalised. The date itself is meaningless. It’s how we can all relate to it which is important. I’d like it to be on the anniversary of the day we eventually become a republic.

  36. I’d like it to be on the anniversary of the day we eventually become a republic.

    Once again it would be on a day when an event happened and the monarchists would not be happy.

    Why does it have to be focused around an event.?

    Why can’t it simply be a non event day to celebrate our country ?

  37. Miglo

    I agree but why does it have to coincide with anything other than a day to celebrate Australia for being Australia.

    If it does, it gives some group a reason to not like the day, and others to not like them, for not liking the day.

  38. That’s the dilemna, Shane. I’m sure if it’s to celebrate our becoming a republic that the monarchists will be offended.

    Maybe a day of no significance is an option. Let’s just celebrate being equal Australians.

  39. Let’s just celebrate being equal Australians.

    Exactly. Then there can be no mud slinging and blame game.

    I think that it might have been Cu suggested revising the old Wattle Day.

    Being a keen gardener and nature lover I would have no objection to wattle day. Then again those who hate greenies might think otherwise.

  40. I do believe there must be some days out of 365 of them that we can choose from where nothing happened.

  41. Miglo, have you noticed that no one is supporting the present arrangements.

    There does not appear to be a need in Australians to have a day to pat themselves on the back, and promote how good they are, as in America.

    I believe this is a good thing.

    Australians appear to take for granted that they are patriotic and love their country, without the need to scream it from the rooftops, in an effort to convince themselves they are.

    At the same time, we are not going to give up a damn holiday, we are not that stupid.

    I did not mention Wattle Day, but that us not a bad thought. If my memory is correct, that is the horses birthday, the first of August.

    We are not like the yanks that have a built in drive to be the best at everything. We like to win, but that is different. That is something one has to work at.

  42. Cu, the reason no-one here supports the present arrangements is because this site does not attract beer swilling, tattooed bogans.

  43. Wattle Day is inclusive for all Australians….- Whether you are a greek AUSTRALIAN an irish AUSTRALIAN an republican AUSTRALIAN an monachist AUSTRALIAN or a first AUSTRALIAN etc, its a day that includes ALL of our cultures ALL of our heritages ALL of our environments across the country…. its about US as a people and the land we share, together. As we proceed into the 21st cent. lets look toward Australin National Wattle Day as our ‘thanksgiving day’…. 7billion people in the world and only 22million get to say that they are from ‘the lucky country’.. think about that, …Wattle Day has continuously been celebrated somewhere in Australia, (officially), since 1910, its not an old day that needs to be draged back into existence, it never left, ordinary AUSTRALIANS have kept it alive because they can see the importance of the day and its continued relationship with this land and its people. Wattle Day is on the 1st of Sept. the start of spring here in OUR AUSTRALIA.

  44. G’day, Just thought I’d add some links if anyone wants to learn more.
    I especially like the idea of it being a folk day, a day thats come up from the people rather than down from Govt. …. read Rod Panter briefing below.
    Interest in Wattle Day is increasing every year, my worry is that it may get hi-jacked by self-interests. Republicans want to use it ( which is hardly fair to the monarchists that own a piece of it also), National zealots ( those that fly the southern cross like it’s a rebel flag, in country that didnt have a civil war, no we had a vote instead) and recently I’ve heard that Woolies may get involved( take the Wattle Day Brand and make it chinese somehow)
    I became interested in Wattle Day because of a story I came across, It was about one of ouy boys in ww1, his job was to go around the battlefield after the battle looking for injured soldiers…. he came across one of our boys in the mud and slush of a shell-crater, dead from a gut wound with his Red Cross care package beside him, he had a sprig of Wattle in his fingers and died staring at that sprig of wattle. he then posed the suggestion that he thought that this boy was’nt in a ditch in France when he died, no, he was home.
    It’s just a little sprig of Wattle.;adv=yes;orderBy=customrank;page=2;query=Rod%2BPanter;rec=8;resCount=Default

    Click to access libby_robin.pdf

    Click to access story-1.pdf

    Click to access story-1.pdf

  45. I like that story, LOVO. I also now like the idea. However, I still favour the day we become a republic as the day we will ultimately celebrate as one.

  46. LOVO and Roswell, what about both? The day is the one where we become a republic and the symbol of that day is the Wattle. I believe that the wattle is the only native plant species represented in all States and Territories.

  47. Migs, we could always have a day off for every plant species in Australia..and half days for every sub-species…

  48. Roswell, I agree. Only then will we have no connection to any other country. Only then will it have meaning.

    I have no problem in celebrating Jan 26, but as representing what is was, the foundation of a criminal colony.

    I believe this even happened because of a mistake by the politicians, they meant the ships to go to Canada. No idea whether that was true or not, but it would not surprise me. It actually makes more sense.

    There is no shame but pride in recognising we have come from a criminal colony to the country we are today.

    Those criminals proved what one can achieve when given a chance.

    They took the opportunity Botany Bay handed them and many did not look back.

    The country built on what they first establish and did not look back.

    I do not believe the soldiers contributed much. The opposite could be true if one looks at our history.

    It was our original people that showed them the way over the mountains that were holding the settlement back.

  49. And speaking of sub-species…. Its a day, in, which all sides of politics agree.
    Migs if your that worried about holidays get a job on a council………. like me!!lol
    Min we would have to add extra days to the year, 1,000 plus Acacia species and about as many Gums.

  50. Min/LOVO, when I went to school we used to celebrate Arbor Day and plant some trees.

    Does anybody know if they still promote that in schools?

  51. Get a job working for a Japanese company Migs – some I know of have Australian AND Japanese public holidays off 🙂

  52. And if you want to get real interested, ‘Wattle’ by Maria Hitchcock is to be re-released this year. Maria is know as the Wattle Lady.
    You could try to find an old copy, as Terry Fewtrell said to me “good luck there like hens teeth to find”; Ive gotten 8 or so copies over the last few years and had to be quick when i found a copy. I only have 2 left as I keep giving them away to schools, even gave 1 to the local poetry group ‘Poets in the Pub’. and no prizes for guessing where they hold meetings.

  53. Better still, Bacchus, why don’t I stay where I am an simply introduce the initiative that we celebrate Japanese public holidays as well.

    And Chilean. French. Canadian.

    I’m looking forward to Bastille Day. We’ll have specials on French wine here at the Café.

  54. Sounds even better to me Migs. Do you think you can find a politician to champion this through the parliament for you? 😆

  55. Pingback: Happy Australia Day! « HoaiPhai

  56. LOVO, fear not..Migs knows exactly what is happening on his blog. I know that this is one of Migs’ favorites. We were talking about this just a few days ago, how sometimes you write because you know that it’s something important, irrespective of the hits or the number of comments – you just write about it, because it’s a story which you believe needs telling.

    Here is one that I know Migs is especially proud of..

  57. I wish you Aussies well in your quest. I’m Canadian and the more I learn about Australia, the more it sounds like home. Some of our original settlers came from England (and France) in chains and still today there is no consensus as to the Queen’s place in our future. Some naughty early Canadians were sent to Australia, too. We also like beer and BBQ!

    Canada Day celebrates the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the “British North America Act, 1867” but we were still British subjects up to 1947 (if I remember correctly) and to this date we still have a Governor General and ties to England. But you know what? It really doesn’t matter because even though Canada Day does not celebrate being granted total independence, we Canadians celebrate being Canadian whatever our individual vision of what that means. We still struggle with our national identity and one person wrote that a Canadian spends his life trying to convince the British that he is not American and trying to convince Americans that he is not British.

    I’m personally very thankful that July 1st is Canada Day because it’s warm at that time of year so we can BBQ and drink beer outdoors without having to worry about a layer of ice forming which would impede the uptake of the golden fluid!

    Whatever day ends up being your perfect Australia day, I wish you all the best. And if each of your 22 million could see fit to chip in a couple of pennies apiece, please send my wife and me plane tickets so we could be there to share your pride… we’d love to attend! (Just kidding, I’m not really panhandling!)

  58. HoaiPhai, at least that’s something which we Aussies don’t often have to contend least not recently, being mistaken for being American.

    Canadians also came to Australia during our Gold Rush era, well that’s not surprising is it.

    We Aussies do have an identity crisis in my opinion, old Aussies (pre WW2) and the new Aussies who are British but also Greeks, Italians, other Europeans and then the influx of Vietnamese post Vietnam War. And while we have successfully integrated all of these nationalities we struggle to give respect to our First Australians, the Aboriginal people.

    I was talking with our blogmaster Miglo the other day about this, how this most ancient of people is given scant respect. Imagine it, a continuous race of people occupying almost the exact same space as they have done for 40,000+years. It pales the pyramids into insignificance.

    In Canada that native peoples are given some respect for their culture, but here in Australia our first people…it’s not just a national tragedy, but a tragedy for all we of the race called human.

  59. G’Day, Happy Wattle Day to all you Whisperers,
    It’s been a long and hard battle for the wattle to be recognised as the nation’s floral emblem. On wattle day, Terry Fewtrell looks how the wattle symbolises our land, people and nation.
    102 years ago Australians cities across the country participated in the country’s first formal Wattle Day celebrations. They were building on a tradition of invoking wattle as a symbol of their land and identity, celebrations first recorded in Hobart in 1838 when wattle blossoms were used as way of identifying with this land as home.

    It took many years for the love of wattle to be formally recognised and it was only in 1988 that Acacia pycnantha was declared Australia’s national floral emblem and in 1992 the first of September gazetted as national Wattle Day across the country.

    Of course wattle dates a lot further back in our national story than 1988, 1910 or even 1838. As a living expression of our land, wattle links us to the earliest human occupation of this continent. Indigenous Australians have used wattle for thousands of years as a season marker (a sign that the whales are coming), as a source of food and the raw material for hunting and sound instruments. That is part of wattle’s wonderful heritage as a unifying symbol of our land, our people and the nation – a symbol that has no unpleasant baggage.

    But wattle is a symbol as broad and inclusive as its reach into history is long. Wattle grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. It links all our people, from our first to our newest at citizenship ceremonies. It touches all levels of society, from very early pioneers and World War I diggers, buried with a customary sprig of wattle, to victims of the Bali bombings and to our nation’s best whom we honour with Order of Australia awards, the insignia of which is designed around the wattle flower.

    But as rich as the social history of wattle may be, it is to the future that wattle leads us. None of our existing key public national days are about us as a contemporary people and the land we love. Significant as it is in our history, Australia Day is essentially a marker of an event in 18th century British colonial policy. ANZAC Day, as sacred as it is in the national psyche, was inspired initially by the valour and deeds of young Australians in a far away land, out of loyalty to a distant empire.

    Wattle Day on the other hand is about our land and us. Wattle is the blaze of colour that paints our landscape every year. It is the gold that blends with the eucalypt green to form the green and gold around which we so willingly unite. Because it springs organically from our land it bonds us as a people to that land. It is a far more meaningful day of national celebration than say a Queen’s birthday, which relates to a monarch in a foreign land, whose real birthday is at another time and which is marked at differing times around the country.

    But potentially wattle offers more than that for the future. Because of its association with our land and the care that indigenous, settler and modern day Australians have for it, Wattle Day can be seen as an occasion to celebrate and honour the piece of earth we share. Respecting and caring for land, protecting its native flora and fauna and using wisely its water resources are surely major challenges to which we need to commit ourselves as a people, communities and individually. Our future is bound tightly with the health of our land and its environment.

    Because there is no better symbol of our land than wattle, we could perhaps look to National Wattle Day each year as the day we recommit ourselves to the care of that land.

    We could think of Wattle Day as our land’s birthday. The time each year when the landscape waves its golden flag for our attention, and in response, we renew our resolve to both respect and care for it.

    Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said: ‘I am from this land. This place is home’.

    When the blaze of wattle lights up our landscape each year, let’s remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all. National Wattle Day on 1 September each year, is an appropriate time to commit ourselves afresh to caring for that land.

  60. How do you know a ‘real Aussie from a fake Aussie…… 😀 …. well, by following the prompts and taking this short test, of course ….can u answer this 2 part Questionair…
    Q1: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie……
    A: {your answer}
    Q2: Am I ever gunna see your face again ????????????
    A: { your answer}
    Easy….. 😆

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