In the last few months, the conversation surrounding Australia Day’s most appropriate date has been hotter than ever before. There have been various pushes from different politicians, protesters and organisations, but the most controversial drive has come from youth broadcaster radio station, triple j.
If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not know that triple j changed the date of their annual Hottest 100 countdown – the biggest listener-voted poll in Australia. The youth network moved the Hottest 100 to Saturday, January 27, reigniting the debate surrounding the issue. But triple j maintained that the move wasn’t politically charged in a media release detailing the changes to the Hottest 100.
“In recent years the Hottest 100 has become a symbol in the debate about Australia Day. The Hottest 100 wasn’t created as an Australia Day celebration. It was created to celebrate your favourite songs of the past year. It should be an event that everyone can enjoy together – for both the musicians whose songs make it in and for everyone listening in Australia and around the world,” the statement said.
And triple j’s right – Australia Day isn’t about the music. And neither is this article.
Yesterday, our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, posted a video tweet captioned: “A free country debates its history, it does not deny it. Australia day is Australia’s day – a day when we come together and celebrate our nation and all of its history.”
A hint of contradiction, anyone?
If Australia Day is a day where we Australians “come together and celebrate our nation,” then why is there a rally held in every city across Australia protesting against the date?
If “a free country debates its history, it does not deny it,” then why are we denying our First Nations people a history of massacres by holding Australia Day on the day that signalled the beginning of those massacres?
While the first recorded killing happened on 1 September 1794, six years after the First Fleet washed ashore Sydney Cove, it was not the first murder of Aboriginal people by European settlers.
But it is the earliest to have enough evidence to meet the strict criteria of University of Newcastle researchers, as The Guardian reports. That criteria lead to chief researcher Lyndall Ryan labelling the estimates as conservative.
Only events where six or more relatively defenceless people were killed have been counted as a massacre. Skirmishes and other violence weren’t counted.
As the Brisbane Times reports, 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were killed in massacres or conflicts between 1788 and 1930 in Queensland alone. Imagine the statistics if the remainder of Australia were to be counted – it’s shockingly disturbing.
Therefore, the 26th of January still motions the undeniable start of a history of killings.
Throughout the video, Malcolm again makes false claims that people campaigning to have the date changed are “seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that would divide us.”
Well, no. It already divides Australia as it is.
And Malcolm, the result of a changed date for Australia Day would mean those that are currently protesting the change would be able to celebrate the day like everyone else. Not the opposite.
If Malcolm believes that Australia Day is uniting the nation, and he doesn’t realise that Indigenous Australians, among many other Australians, oppose the current date of Australia Day, then it’s truly embarrassing.