Letters

Australia Day

Ed,

The first official Australia Day was held on July 30 in 1915. Its main purpose was to raise funds for the World War I effort. Ellen Wharton-Kirke, from Manly NSW, made the suggestion to Premier Sir Charles Wade, reportedly due to the enlistment of her three sons. But that’s another story. Moving on to the current shemozzle.

Here it is January and no doubt the anti-26th January Australia Day folk will be loading up their canons with dud information. Before doing so they might ponder upon the following, which seems to be ignored (on purpose?), by our politicians, the media, our “education” system, many people of self-importance and those who promote disharmony.

It provides compelling reasons why the 26th January is the best date (the only date), to celebrate Australia, this great land we live in. And it has nothing to do with the arrival of Captain Cook, the First Fleet or what happened during the first 200 years.

In fact, the above folks have fanned the flames of discontent among the Aboriginal community, and many other Australians, by not promoting the real basis of January 26th. They appear to have purposely avoided providing information about its significance due to ignorance or their own agendas.

The anti-26th date appears to be based on Captain Cook’s arrival, but he landed at Botany Bay on April 28th 1770 (GMT). It wasn’t the First Fleet either, which landed on the January 18th 1788 so the 26th has no connection with those events.

Unfortunately, Cook’s landing was (inappropriately), emphasized in the Australia Day celebrations since the 1988 bicentennial of Cooks arrival. Having a Cook celebration is appropriate, but not as a part of Australia Day, because it isn’t relevant to all Australians. Bit like adding The Eureka Stockade to Anzac Day.

January 26th was chosen as Australia Day because it was for the first time, when all Australians were considered equal. It was on January 26th 1949 when the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948 was enacted.

That was the day we legally became Australians. On that day we all became equal under the law; no if’s but’s or maybes. This applied to every Australian irrespective of their race or heritage.
Or as Ray Payne OAM put it in an article on the Veteranweb Network:

“This was the day Australians became free to make our own decisions about which wars we would fight and how our citizens would be treated. It was the day Aborigines were declared Australians.
Until this date, Aborigines were not protected by law. For the first time since Cook’s landing, this new Act gave Aboriginal Australians by inference and precedent the full protection of Australian law.

Because of this Act, the government became free to help Aborigines, and since that day much has been done to assist Aboriginal Australians, including saying ‘sorry’ for the previous atrocities done before this law came into effect. That was the day we were first called Australians and allowed to travel with passports as Australians.
This was a great day for all Australians!

This is why the 26th of January is the day new Australians receive their citizenship. It is a day which celebrates the implementation of the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948 – the Act which gave freedom and protection to the first Australians and gives all Australians, old and new, the right to live under the protection of Australian Law, united as one nation.

We need to remember both the good and the bad in our history, but the emphasis must be the freedom and unity all Australians now have, because of what was done on the January 26th 1949, to allow all of us to live without fear in a land of peace. What was achieved that day is something for which all Australians can be proud!

Isn’t it time all Australians were taught the real reason why we celebrate Australia Day on this day?”

Some may still try to preach that January 26th is not the best date, but it will be difficult to find another day, which broadly and equally includes all Australians.

Let’s hope that in 2021 and beyond, there are campaigns to explain to all of us why this day was chosen to celebrate Australia. And many of you will still be around to celebrate the real Australia Day Centenary on 26th Jan 2049.

John Ibbotson,
Lawrence

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