January 26th is a day of mourning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to the devastating harm caused by colonisation. The date that represents the beginning of colonisation, the removal of children, and destruction of language and culture, is not the date to celebrate.
While our federal government dawdles on making political progress, activist groups have continued to raise awareness and educate Australians on the truth behind Australia Day. The good news is that this tiresome, grassroots campaigning is working.
CHANGE FROM THE GROUND UP
With attitudes towards Australia Day changing in our society, local councils are following suit, thanks to Labor scrapping a controversial rule enforced by Morrison forcing local councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Jan 26. Merri-bek Council in Melbourne's north is just one council which has scrapped the ceremony and will instead host a mourning ceremony. The Inner West in Sydney has also scrapped it’s festivities on Jan 26, and is asking it’s residents to visit the Aboriginal Yabun festival instead.
Unfortunately, local councils cannot change or scrap the official date as it’s federal a matter but it does signify a shift in the right direction and, as we love to say internally, one and one and one add up. We hope that next time The Greens raise a motion to change/scrap the date, they’ll have more support thanks to our shift in attitude as we learn more as Australians.
BUSINESSES CHANGING THE DATE
While smaller, ethics focussed businesses (like us) have given employees the option to shift their public holiday, this year marks the first time big Aussie heavyweights are giving their employees a choice too. Woolworths, Channel 10, and Telstra, are just a few of the businesses allowing, and even encouraging their staff to choose what day they want to celebrate. University staff are also negotiating with their employers to allow them flexibility while other unions are doing their best to keep up. With so many Australians wanting to scrap Jan 26 celebrations and instead focus on reconciliation, why wait any longer?
Officially moving the Jan 26 public holiday is crucial as it aligns all corners of our society. It means parents don’t have to worry about day care, shift workers don’t have to consider public holiday rates, and our indigenous population don’t have to suffer the trauma represented by Australia Day.
WHAT CAN I DO INSTEAD?
Go to a protest. Every capital city holds a Survival/Invasion Day march and you can find the full list here. These rallies are gaining momentum and even outpacing official Australia Day parades (a large reason why the Andrews government has scrapped the official Australia Day march in Victoria) so showing up and showing your support matters and makes a difference. Each city usually has its own cultural festival planned for after the march so the family can make a whole day out of it.
If you’re in Sydney, the Australian Museum has a night ceremony on the 25th celebrating indigenous resistance and resilience. You can book your free tickets here. There are also various dawn ceremonies held by Indigenous leaders giving you the chance to pause and reflect on the rich history of our country. You can find the full list here.
If you want to learn a little bit more about the colonial history of Australia Day, our blog post from last year goes into more detail: We Don't Celebrate Genocide