End the argument; just call it India Day on January 26

By Vijay Badhwar

The Indian community in Australia will welcome the name change!

Also, just for the sake of a change, you cannot move the Day earlier – it will cut short the holiday period, or later, (although some will like it). The break is just right.

Seriously though, it does hurt feelings of the people who have suffered a lot, who have been invaded and killed en masse, whose children were forcibly taken away. They were not even recognised as human beings (Terra Nullius). They had no right to vote until 1962 (!) and not counted in the Census until 1967 (!!).

The jingoistic Australians may call it shameful not to celebrate the day as Australia Day, but let’s agree that it’s not a day that unites all Australians.

Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet set its anchors on Australian soil in the vicinity of this day, its 11 ships arriving a few days later. This marks the day when the British set foot in Australia in 1788 and made it a colony to change its course for ever. Much later, it became quintessentially an Australian celebration ”“ a day on the beach, bar-b-ques, Australian of the Year Awards.

For many Australians it celebrates many achievements – modernisation, colossal improvement in standards of living, fair go, multiculturalism. These are not mean achievements; any nation will be proud of these. There should be a day marked in the year symbolic of these achievements and celebrated as a national day by all its citizens.

But what day it should be that is uncontroversial, inclusive of all its citizens, does not make anyone uncomfortable and is also important enough to make a mark in the nation’s history. That’s the conundrum.

We can learn from other nations of a similar background ”“ New Zealand that celebrates Treaty of Waitangi with its indigenous people on February 6, US that celebrates on July 13 for its Declaration of Independence and especially Canada that celebrates unification of its colonies on July 1.

Australia can heed advice of prominent Aboriginal leader Warren Mundine who prefers January 1 as an appropriate National Day that celebrates coming together of six Australian colonies.

It is not a pressing issue, however, and Australia should wait until our Aborigines are properly recognised in the preamble of the Australian Constitution. That lends more weight for a real celebration of a National Day on January 1.


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