Australia Day is a sensational concept. A celebration of being Australian, with no rules about how you should do it. Okay, maybe one rule. Anything goes, as long as you’re not affecting or upsetting anyone, and that includes discrimination and breaking the important laws. Like murder and terrorism and stuff.
That same rule applies to most things, unless you’re on an end of season football trip. Then its two rules, ‘Whatever happens on tour, stays on tour.’ And, ‘When burying the evidence, no holes less than a metre deep.’
Which is why Australia Day needs to be moved. Not because it’s difficult to dig holes in January. More to do with the fact that to some, it’s extremely offensive to celebrate the arrival of the First Fleet on January 26, 1788.
There’s no denying that those early immigrants committed some horrendous acts, and they’d definitely struggle for credibility if they rocked up today and claimed the place was empty. However, it wasn’t a one-off. Colonising forces weren’t known for their ability to share. They were the big fat greedy rich kids of the world, who already had more than enough for lunch, but still took everyone else’s lunch money. It would’ve been much more peculiar if the British had arrived and been all like, ‘Let’s share.’
Since then we’ve had the apology from parliament to indigenous Australians, and as a society we’re bumbling along, trying to develop a system that’s as fair as possible for everyone. I don’t want to get stuck analysing policy, but every Australia Day these issues come up because of the date.
Yesterday my Facebook feed was flooded with racist allegations and assertions, and I’m guessing many others suffered the same. Australia Day shouldn’t be about celebrating our arrival, or apologising for it. Instead, why can’t we just celebrate how good it is to be Australian?
So what are the alternatives? There’s February 13, 2008. The day Kevin Rudd said sorry. Definitely a date that should never be forgotten, but making it Australia Day feels like replacing January 26 with its complete opposite. I reckon ‘Sorry Day’ is important enough to be its own holiday, which would mean another day off, and you can never have enough of those.
We officially became a country on January 1, 1901, but while the date of federation is very important, that wouldn’t work either. It’s already a day off, and most of us are too tired or hungover to celebrate anything. Or still up, and with no idea of what day it actually is.
Other possibilities are when we first voted as one country, December 16, 1902. However, most women and all indigenous people were banned from the ballet boxes, so making Australia Day December 16 instead of January 26 would be like replacing Sunrise’s David Koch with Kyle Sandilands. Or Karl Stefanovic with a right wing muppet. Like Miss Piggy, who’s renowned for her fiscal responsibility and inability to share. She has the added bonus of having far more personality and stronger morals than Karl.
The safest bet for a new Australia Day would be to just pick something to do with sport. The date we won the America’s Cup, or the first Ashes series, or something related to when we actually won some medals at the Olympics. Maybe Ian Thorpe’s birthday. I mean, we all love sport right? Even if you don’t, it’s un-Australian to pick on our sportspeople, and on Australia Day, there’s nothing worse.
Seriously though, what about December 3? The date of the 1854 Eureka Rebellion. Gold miners in Ballarat set up an armed resistance, as they objected to paying for a mining licence and not being allowed to vote. Taxation without representation. The exact opposite of today, when everyone gets to vote, and the miners pick who’s in charge anyway.
The Eureka Stockade has been credited by historians with instigating democracy in Australia, on the back of several injuries and 40 fatalities. It’s a date that represents standing up for what you believe in, fighting for a fair go, and the triumph of the underdog, all values that I think it’s well worth celebrating on Australia Day. Also they had a cool flag, which I wouldn’t mind using instead of that part British abomination we currently fly.
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