A Western Australian politics academic claims the date of Australia Day should be open for change if there is conflict over insensitivity towards indigenous Australians.
Murdoch University Politics and Global Policy lecturer Dr Ian Cook claimed changing Australia Day is a political issue and the date should not be held to January 26, adding Australian attitudes towards the date were also more relaxed.
“The thing is it hasn’t been the 26th for that long,” Dr Cook said.
“It’s not a hundred-year tradition or something we’re trying to defend here.”
Dr Cook said he was open to a new date being chosen because “I’m not sure we’re celebrating the day they (the First Fleet) turned up in Botany Bay” and that it was “much more about our identity, who we are as a people.”
He also said the day is more about having a holiday while “celebrating the fact that we’re Australian”, and believed Australians were “not obsessed with this particular day”.
However, he said it was worrying that many Australians did not know why Australia Day was held on January 26.
“It is a little bit concerning that Australians don’t know what Australia Day is actually, why the 26th of January is the day they’ve chosen,” he said.
He said there should be more discussion about a day being chosen.
More Australians Don’t Mind When Australia Day is: Poll
Dr Cook’s comments came after a new poll by Canberra think-tank The Australia Institute through Research Now revealed 56 per cent of Australians did not mind when Australia Day was, so long as there was a day for commemoration.
37 per cent said the current date of Australia Day was offensive to indigenous Australians, but 84 per cent believed there should be a national day of celebration.
77 per cent also believed incorrectly that the celebration had always occurred on January 26.
Local Australians have backed efforts to change the date of Australia Day in support of indigenous Australians.
“I think we need to respect indigenous Australians if they have a serious problem with it,” one woman surveyed by WAMN News said.
“It’s just a date. So I see no reason to not move it.”
However, another woman said it was important to have a national day of celebration because “that’s a reflection of inclusivity.”
The Greens also launched a campaign to move local government Australia Day celebrations to consider Indigenous Australians feelings towards the national day.
Local governments have criticised the plan, claiming councils should focus on delivering services to ratepayers and leave decisions about changing the date of Australia to the Federal Government.
PM Continues to Slam Change the Date Efforts
Campaigns to change the date have led Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to slam continued attempts.
“I’m disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day, seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that would divide us,” Mr Turnbull said in a video posted on his official Facebook page.
He said he understood that Australian history had been difficult but believed the nation could improve on its past.
However, he said the day will still focus on celebrating unity despite the issue.
“Australia Day is a day to come together and celebrate what unites us, what gives all of us reason to be proud.” Mr Turnbull said.