I was born on the 26th of January, which, depending on where you stand, is either “Australia Day,” “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day.” When I was a kid, my grandparents used to joke that the whole country was celebrating my birthday–by drinking and having barbecues in public parks across the nation.
My dad was always a bit perturbed by the celebration, referring to it as “invasion day,” but he dutifully facilitated my parties. Ever since I can remember, it’s been a confusing day for me.
It’s the day I’m supposed to celebrate my birth with my family and mates. It’s a national public holiday for which we’re encouraged to cook meat, piss-up and paint the flag on our faces.
It’s the day Triple J broadcasts the results of the world’s biggest music poll, the Hottest 100. It’s the day the country waves the flag to celebrate the British arrival to Australia.
And it’s the day that marks the beginning of the destruction of indigenous culture.
Most of us don’t hear the indigenous perspective in school, but as I got older, I began to notice the Australia Day rallies happening around the country, with people marching to actively challenge a celebration of colonisation and genocide.
People tend to shy away from the term “genocide” but the proof is in the numbers: the indigenous population was roughly 770,000 at the time of invasion and was decimated to 117,000 by 1900.
The thing that makes Australia day so hard to celebrate is our nation’s brutally racist history. It’s not just the stolen generation or the White Australia policy, which can be shrugged off as issues that happened well before our time, but a whole range of more recent things.
From the booing of Adam Goodes to the re-election of Pauline Hanson to the Senate; from the intervention in 2007 to the footage of indigenous children being tortured under the care of the Australian government at Don Dale. Andrew Bolt, who was charged in 2011 under the Racial Discrimination Act, remains the most read columnist in in the country.
Australia day celebrations, with all the flag-waving and Southern Cross tattoos may once have been a marker of a proud and healthy democracy, but now they look a bit scary to me, like the Cronulla riots could erupt again at any moment.
Obviously there’s a national issue with Australia day. It’s my opinion that we should find a different, more inclusive day to celebrate. In New Zealand, the country celebrates Waitangi Day, which marks the date that over 500 Maori chiefs signed a treaty with the British.
That happened in 1840. Almost 200 years later, a treaty hasn’t happened yet in Australia and it’s probably still a while off. In 2016, we, as a nation, are still actively celebrating the British invasion, indigenous Australians be damned.
This song by AB Original and Dan Sultan, January 26, goes to the core of it.
Recently, a petition has begun circulating via change.org imploring Triple J to change the date of the Hottest 100 out of respect for indigenous Australians. It reads:
“We recognize that it isn’t within the power of Triple J to change this date; however, it is capable of using their broadcast to make a statement of solidarity with the experience of those whose countries were colonized.
“…By changing the date of the Hottest 100 Countdown, Triple J can send a message to First Nations’ Peoples that they, and their experiences, are valued and respected by other Australians.”
I signed the petition and I’ll celebrate my birthday on a different day out of respect for indigenous Australians. I think Triple J’s audience is ready to celebrate the Hottest 100 on a different day too.
This would send a message to the government that we want to change our national celebration to a more inclusive date. Eventually we’ll sign a treaty and celebrate that. Until then, let’s pick a more respectful time to celebrate the year’s most popular music.
by Nat Kassel