A couple of weeks ago the nation celebrated Australia Day. It’s held on January 26th each year but do you know why? Well it marks a significant date in Australia’s history but not one everyone thinks it’s a date that should be celebrated. And that’s why, this year, there were calls for Australia Day to move. Here’s Carl with more. But first a warning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers, this story contains images of people who’ve died.
We’ve all seen the thongs and tongs of Australia Day. But do you know what the famous public holiday is really all about? Well Australia Day actually has a pretty complex history.
So let’s jump back two hundred and twenty eight years to see where it all began.
In the late 1700s Britain found itself with too many prisoners and not enough prisons to hold them all. They needed a place to send them and the recently discovered Australia fit the bill.
JUDGE KID: You are sentenced to transportation across the seas for a period of seven years.
So the First Fleet loaded up with 759 convicts, travelled to the other side of the world and set up the first Australian colony – New South Wales.
They landed at Sydney Cove on January 26 the date that would eventually become Australia Day and Captain Arthur Phillip took possession of the land for the British Empire. But Arthur Phillip wasn’t just taking control of empty land.
Aboriginal people had been living in Australia for at least 50,000 years before that, and that’s why for many Aboriginal people Australia Day is not a celebration – it’s a day of mourning. Some people even call it Invasion Day.
This mixture of feelings towards Australia Day was easy to see on January 26 1988.
As many Australians celebrated the 200th anniversary of the First Fleet’s voyage to Australia, Aboriginal people held huge demonstrations and protests because they didn’t think it should be a day to celebrate.
KID, 1988: I’m very proud to be Aboriginal, and I’m glad I could take part in the march and be here today. 200 years from today, white man came and started to destroy my people of this land.
Because of this many people are now starting to think that Australia Day should be moved to a different day, and there are a few options that people have suggested.
One is January 1st, the day in 1901 that the Australian colonies united to form a single nation. Another is January 25th, the day before British settlement and the last day the Australian continent was inhabited only by indigenous people.
Some have also talked about fusing Australia Day with ANZAC Day in April, or Wattle Day in September. Others think it could be the day Australia’s first federal parliament was opened, or the day of the referendum that recognised Aboriginal people in the constitution.
There are lots of different options, but many people still like January 26th too. Some like it because it’s the traditional day we’ve celebrated Australia Day, others because it’s a great time of year to have a swim and a barbie.
But whether the day changes or stays the same, it’ll still involve some very special things: welcoming newcomers into our society, celebrating parts of our culture, and remembering the generations of Australians who have come before us.
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