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  • For many Aboriginals, Australia Day on January 26 is

    For many Aboriginals, Australia Day on January 26 is "Invasion Day". | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 September 2018
Opinion

The proposal by the PM drew criticism from activists, who proposed January 26 as a day of mourning for the lives lost due to European colonization.

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for a new national day recognizing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and has rejected the appeals to change the date of Australia Day which will remain on Jan 26.

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The PM suggested May 27 as the new national day for Indigenous people of Australia. May 27, 1967, holds a significance in the history of Indigenous people in the country where a referendum to formally count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as part of the population was accepted.

He said January 26, which marks the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788, was the day that Australia's course changed forever. "It was 60,000 years of Indigenous history before that and modern Australia effectively started on that day," he said. "You can't change that. That's just what happened. That's just a fact, and I want Australia Day to be even more so a day where all Australians can come together."

Tarneen Onus-Williams, a Yigar Gunditjmara, Bindal, Yorta Yorta and Torres Strait Islander woman, who was a co-organizer of Melbourne's 'Abolish Australia Day' rally this year, said that Morrison has completely missed the point.

"It's creating a diversion path and not actually dealing with the fact that we've been protesting on January 26 for 80 years for things to change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," said Onus-Williams. "It’s about genocide, it's not about our achievements."

She also mentioned that the First Nations peoples do not need the PM to inform them about their achievements. "Is our achievement assimilation? Whose achievements will we be celebrating? What’s the point if the truth is not being told."

Gundijmara Lidia Thorpe, a Greens MP said creating a separate day for Aboriginal people “doesn’t create unity.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Australia would “never have a day that brings this nation together if we continue to celebrate it [on 26 January].”

Tony Abbott, the government’s special envoy on Indigenous affairs seemed less enthusiastic about the PM’s call. We’ve already got things like NAIDOC Week and National Sorry Day and so on, and really I think the emphasis ... is on all pulling together on Australia Day, being proud of what we’ve achieved,” he said to a local radio channel.

Some ministers welcomed the concept while others described it as the start of “another cultural war”. Lately, Australia witnessed a surge of protests demanding the change of Australia Day date as it marks colonization rather than the achievement of Australian people.

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