There is an abundance of spirit and resources that the country is bestowed with. Maybe that’s why Australia is often referred to as ‘the land of plenty’! A day to rejoice, reflect, respect and celebrate- ‘The Australia day’ is the national day of Australia. It is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the spirit of mateship, resilience and communal harmony.
The 26th January, 1788 commemorates the setting up of the first European settlement at a place known as the Port Jackson, which is currently a famous place in Sydney. Since 1788, January 26 has been celebrated as the ‘National Day’ or the ‘Invasion day’ of Australia.
Amidst the merry celebrations and festivities, there are some deep, underlying symbols for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well. This specific strata of the Australian culture views this day as nothing more than a day of sorrow and mourning. The 26th January is seen as a crucial day in the history of Australia and has seen a tremendous change over a period of time; initially being a symbol of celebrations for all the emancipated convicts in the region, and gradually moving towards reflecting upon the diverse and rich cultural background of the nation, the ‘The Australia Day’ has a lot to offer!
Let’s get to know this day a little bit better.
On 26 January, 1788, the first fleet set foot in Australia. Before actually the day was coined, it was being celebrated as the Foundation day, anniversary day, Landing day etc. From 1935, the day was officially announced as the ‘Australian Day’. Primarily, the citizens of Australia reflect upon the achievements of the nation and take pride in being a part of such a great nation. Home to an abundant number of resources, Australia has evolved immensely till now. So, the day serves a promise to oneself to take it to new heights!
In the context of this national day of Australia, there has been a lot of change since 1778, and even before that. So, let us see how this day got shaped.
This is the timeline that will give you a brief overview of all the events that took place during 1770 and 1994 that resulted in making 26 January as the Australia Day. The day is marked as a public holiday for the general public and schools and businesses.
Most of the crowd in Australia have a holiday on this day. Therefore, they utilise the day in doing whatever that best suits them. For instance, many people go for barbeque, or being a part of their favourite rock concerts. A lot of people also keep themselves engaged in a wide range of sports events.
Additionally, different parts of Australia have their own unique ways to celebrate the National day. While one can see different kinds of boat races like ferry race, tall ships race and more in Sydney, the most common things that you will see in Adelaide include a cricket match, parade or exquisite fireworks.
One of the major rituals that is followed on the Australia day is to hold several ceremonies that are dedicated to the events that are devoted to the spirit of citizenship in Australia. As the day is often called as the ‘Invasion day’, one can be a part of a number of ceremonies that welcome immigrants who have come to Australia as the new citizens. It is quite evident to witness the cheer of festivities in these events.
Amidst all the cheerfulness and vitality, it becomes imperative to understand the Australia day Aboriginal perspective as well. While it’s the invasion day for most of the people in Australia, it also marks the ‘survival day’ for some. From the Aboroginal perspective, 26th January is viewed as the the day that they want to change, or atleast stop the celebrations for. For them, it is a day for remembering all the sorrows and mournings. There’s a lot of tension that engulfs this important day.
In fact, the day that is ought to unify the citizens of Australia and celebrate the spirit of mateship, ironically, it is a day that is looked upon as a divisive day for this strata of the Australian population. As per the indegenous population of Australia, the day marked the beginning of all the dispossession, abuse, family separation, disease epidemics, explotation of culture etc. Consequently, they call it the ‘Day of Mourning’.
This is the question that looms large in the minds of every Australian citizen. Just like the “grass is always greener on the other side”, it is quite challenging to answer the question whether we must save the date, change it or cancel it altogether.
For the ones who have been affected by the brutalities (Aboroginals) of the British, in the name of colonialisation, this day will never call for a celebration, isn’t it? So, for them, changing the dates wouldn’t do any good.
On the contrary, for the citizens of Australia who have benefitted from the colonialisation, for them the day is a great opportunity to reflect, respect and celebrate the achievements of the nation.
Overall, even if the date gets changed or cancelled, all the trauma that are faced by the Aboriginal people can never be forgotten. Thus, the question has no fixed answer and is still being looked for.
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