SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

AUSTRALIA Day, on the 26th of January, has already been tarnished by the debate about whether it’s the most appropriate date or not.
So, that’s a problem.

Of course, we celebrate ‘Australia Day’ on that day because it’s the anniversary of the establishment of a new colony, after the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson on January 26, 1788.

Although it wasn’t until 1935 that all Australian states adopted January 26 as ‘Australia Day’. So, it hasn’t been going all that long.
In reality, though, we’ve never been disposed to the sort of jingoistic fervour with which many other countries mark their national day; USA and France are two that immediately come to mind; the Americans celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the French, the Storming of the Bastille.

These were two major and very bloody incidents in those countries’ histories.

For us Aussies, it’s been more about the long weekend, and in recent times, honouring our best contributors with Australia Day awards and holding local community events, mostly organised by the council.

However, partly because of the controversy over whether January 26 should really be called ‘Invasion Day’, people have started staying away from those local activities.

So, what’s to be done?

The answer is education.

It’s only been in recent years that the general population has learned, for example, that there are 250 Indigenous languages, including 500 dialects and over 500 different Aboriginal peoples, all from discrete areas of the Australian continent.

Bass Coast might only be made up of 0.9 per cent Indigenous people now but, like every other part in the country, this area has a rich Indigenous history linked to our beautiful country that we should all value and share.

But we’ve got to know about it first.

It’s because of that, we’re not ready yet to throw off January 26 as ‘Australia Day’. But that day is coming and when it does, we want as many people as possible to understand why.

Ultimately, we’re all proud Aussies; on equal terms whether your heritage is First Peoples’, Greek or Sudanese and the sooner we’re on the same footing the better.

And if that means finding a new date to celebrate Australia Day, so be it!