Well, once again Australia Day, January 26, has come and gone with its now-usual litany of recriminations, back-biting, and general bitchiness about whether the date is suitable for a day of national celebration.
Although I am an umpteenth-generation white Australian, whose English forebears came here in the 1830s, I am not unsympathetic to the view of many aboriginal Australians that they have nothing to celebrate on January 26. For them, the day was merely the start of many disasters that befell them. But on the other hand, I am not sympathetic to the view that 2% of the population should dictate to the other 98%.
Yet, although I am an old-fashioned British Australian, I think there are some good reasons for changing Australia Day from January 26. The main reason is that Australia, as a modern federal nation, was not formed on January 26. It was formed on January 1, 1901, the day the Commonwealth Constitution came into force. January 26, 1788, was only the date of the foundation of the city of Sydney and the colony of New South Wales. Keep January 26 as Sydney day, or New South Wales day, but not as Australia Day.
What date then for Australia Day?
I think the only two possible dates are April 25, Anzac Day, or January 1 for the reason I have already said.
In my opinion, Anzac Day is already the de facto Australia Day. If Australians ever stop to ponder what being Australian is all about, it is on Anzac Day. That day has, quite rightly, attained near -religious status in the pantheon of Australian holidays and celebrations. Let's make it the official Australia Day too.
If, though, for whatever reason Anzac Day is not considered suitable for an official Australia Day, then let's make January 1 the official day celebrating the birth of a nation. As I said before, it is the day Australia came into existence as a federation.
Some may say "January 1 is too close to Christmas day". To that I say: January 1 is already celebrated as New Year's Day with a public holiday, even though that public holiday is so close to Christmas. No one minds that. In any case, most of the nation goes to sleep or on holidays from December 25 to at least January 1, so turning January 1 into Australia Day would give the public holiday a substantial national importance, rather than just being the start of a new year. Australia Day would then be an integral part of the nation-wide Christmas-New Year holiday period, rather than being stuck out on its own at the end of January.
Yes, let's change the date of Australia Day. Let's make it either April 25, or January 1. My vote goes to April 25, but I would regard January 1 as perfectly acceptable.