Letters

Australia Day 11

Ed,
Back in 1788, January 26th was a busy day. After arriving in Botany Bay on 18/1 and not finding fresh water or good soil, the fleet sailed on to Port Jackson.

Also on 26/1/1788, two French frigates of the French Lapérouse expedition sailed into Botany Bay. In the evolving world Australia was never going to be left untouched. And of colonising nations the British were probably the best choice.

So, Phillip going ashore at Port Jackson to raise the flag and set up a penal colony on 26/1/1788 was, in the scheme of things, a non-momentous occasion. 1788 needs to be put on the backburner.

Now to raise a few shackles: 26th January would still be the best Australia Day date, and here is why.

It needs to be acknowledged that nobody owns the piece of the world they occupy. We are all just tenants. As tenants we have rights, but not ownership. And tenants come and go or find they have to share their patch with others. This initially may not be a pleasant process, but it has gone on since the Earth became habitable. Over time the old and new tenants worked out how to live together with a minimum of conflict. Sometimes that never happens. Not convinced? Just look at the history of the world over the last 10,000 years.

Since 1788 Australia has evolved and various celebration dates have been chosen. There were for example, Foundation Day, Empire Day (24/5), Commonwealth Day (2nd Monday in March) and 1 January 1901, when Australia became a nation of states not just individual states.

The first “Australia Day” was held on July 30, 1915 to raise funds for the World War I effort. It was in 1935 that all states adopted January 26 and named it Australia Day, but it was still associated with 1788.

There are only 365¼ days in a year so finding one that nobody, somewhere has not already claimed or isn’t disliked, is unrealistic. So, dates have to have multi-users. Hence, they need to be selected based on a date, which includes the year as well as the day and month. Other years with the same day and month need to be put to rest, even if there is a family tree association with the past. It also keeps the reason for that day and month to be up-to-date.

The latest Australia Day of 26/1 was retained because it was (purposely?) on January 26, 1949 when the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948 was enacted.

This was a significant positive date for Australia because it was for the first time, when all Australians were considered equal. On that day all Australians became equal under the law; no ifs, buts or maybes. This applied to every Australian irrespective of their race, heritage, or when their ancestors arrived here. It was all-inclusive.

Although it is an excellent foundation, it did not mean that everything became perfect immediately for everybody. One historian noted that there are “too many special laws that applied to Aboriginal Australians, and these laws were often oppressive and discriminatory”. There are also many preferential laws that give preference to the Aboriginals, and which discriminate against non-aboriginals. There is also pressure (usually irrational), from noisy groups, which give Aboriginals “oppressive and discriminatory” rights over other members of the community.

Overall, though the Aboriginals are better off today, much better off, than in pre-1788 or even 1949.

From 1788 and into the future “Australia” will continue to be an ongoing process. The basis of the 1949 Australia Day is a great foundation for achieving this. What is built on it though and many positive things already have been, depends on our current and future generations and a lot of good will from both sides.

A good start would be for all to accept that the current Australia Day is for all of us, and celebrate it in a positive and united way. Sadly, that won’t happen this year.

If anybody can come up with a more appropriate date for Australia Day other than 26/1/1949 then convince Australia why their date is more appropriate. Just naysaying without offering a suitable alternative only creates or continues disharmony, which at times appears to be their aim.

It is also up to our “leaders” when presented with naysayer requests, to evaluate them on their merit instead of just caving in to the often irrational, often unhelpful demands, which don’t help the integration of all Australians.

Postscript

Our ABC must use the little red dictionary for word definition, or make up their own interpretations on the fly.
England came to Australia to colonise it, which is: “The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.” It has been going on since humans started to move out of Africa. It does have negative connotations, but overall, there are more pluses than minuses.
Invasion which is: “An act of invading with an army for conquest or plunder”, is a completely different kettle of fish and overall, there are few pluses and many minuses.
Also based English policy and on the make-up of the first fleet, it was sent out to colonise, not invade.
There is another definition of invasion, which is: “The incoming or spread of something detrimental”. It typically applies to plagues of rats or locusts or such, which has a negative impact with no benefits. It’s also the reason I don’t allow the ABC to invade my space.


John Ibbotson,
Lawrence

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