Australia, change the day

A few days ago, a few blokes (middle aged white blokes, like me) were in a pub discussing changing the Australia Day to another date.

“It should not be held on the day that the English landed in Australia, colonising the country, claiming it as their own,” argued one of them.

“Move it to another day, what’s the problem? If it’s insulting and hurtful for the First People, move it. I don’t care when the day is. They do. Move it.”

Two of the guys were not in agreement.

“No, I disagree,” said one, “If we move that, what do we have to do next?”

“You’re giving me the ‘thin end of the wedge’ argument?'” the first man replied.

“Come on, that’s not an argument. That sounds like the whole ‘white grievance’ thing. How does it hurt us if the date is moved? It does not. It does not make us any less ‘well off’.

“We invaded, claimed the country as our own, and now aren’t cool or grown up enough to move the date that for the first peoples reminds them of an invasion. And the hurt and suffering that was wrought on them.”

“It’s not white grievance, it’s black grievance. Why do we have to do what the minority wants? That’s not democracy,” came the reply.

~~

That conversation took place last Saturday. The four men were all white, western/European origin. Three were originally from the UK, the fourth from South Africa.

All four had been living in Australia for 20 years or more. They were all Australians, but were born overseas, migrants.

One of them was me.

I was arguing to move the date. Two were very resistant, no matter what I said. The other watched on, sitting on the fence.

I’ve known these three for many years, and I like them. They are good people. They are good fathers, good workers. Their politics is way to the right of mine – they have every right to that – but I could not get through to them on this issue.

So let’s get some things straight:

  1. When the eleven ships landed at Botany Bay on 26th January, 1788, there were 500 indigenous groups of around 750,000 people living in the country. They were part of an unbroken line of more than 60,000 years, the oldest continuous living culture we know.
  2. Within a hundred years, their numbers had been cut by 90%.
  3. Indigenous Australians (First Peoples) are not recognised in the constitution of Australia, and were not even allowed to be citizens until 1967.
  4. Since the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1966 (which had specifically discriminated against non-English speaking and non-white immigrants) Australia has become a multi-cultural success story to some degree. The population comes from people across 200 countries.
  5. Australia Day was not the celebration it is now (fireworks, flags and such) until the bicentenary of 1988, and was only then made public holiday across Australia in 1994.
  6. Indigenous leaders have been calling for a change for more than 20 years.
  7. Changing the date will not change everything, will not make up for everything, but it’s important. As was saying sorry for the Stolen Generation.
  8. If you want to know the ‘true wealth’ of a country, look to how the minorities are treated. That’s democracy. Democracy is not giving power to the majority only, so they get what they want, stuff the rest of them.

So, yes, whites are the majority. They weren’t in 1788, but they have been for some time now. And that’s precisely why we should demand the right thing be done.

Change the date. It matters not one jot to most of us, but it matters a lot to the oldest living civilisation on the planet. It is our duty to do the right thing. It is certainly not our right to inflict more pain.

Proposed replacement dates include 1 January, the anniversary of the foundation of the Commonwealth of Australia, 25 April, Anzac Day and 12 March, when Canberra was officially named Australia’s capital territory in 1913.

Come on Australia. At least have a serious discussion about it. And move forward.

~~

You can read more about this here. Image, from here.

About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business aussiehome.com, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran reiwa.com. In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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