Displaying national pride on Australia Day has suddenly become ‘uncool’ as the backlash against January 26 goes mainstream.
Not so long ago, Australia Day inspired an outpouring of national pride across the nation – think sun-soaked images of Aussies partying on beaches with flags draped across their shoulders.
But if ordinary Australians are continuing to celebrate their national day, they are largely keeping it ‘in-house’ and off social media, which has become a minefield of outrage and hate from both sides of the debate.
Demonstrators in Melbourne marched on Australia Day in an Invasion Day protest highlighting the British colonisation
Australia flags were still on display on the Gold Coast on Tuesday
Australia was not a dirty word on Wave Break Island on Australia Day. There were different scenes in cities elsewhere
Hundreds of thousands collectively shouted down the national holiday that since 1994 has fallen on the day the First Fleet arrived on our shores.
While many Australians have warmed to the notion of scrapping the January 26 holiday, it is feared moving the day to another day won’t make a lick of difference to the land’s traditional owners.
Australian actress and indigenous activist Natasha Wanganeen told Daily Mail Australia those fears were well founded.
Ms Wanganeen is known for her starring role in the 2002 feature film Rabbit Proof Fence, when aged 15, but has gone on to become a powerful voice against racism and injustices against her people.
‘The government of this country and politicians of each state should really make amends with indigenous people and start righting the wrongs,’ she said on Wednesday.
‘Our kids are still being locked up at 10 – until that stops I don’t know if there is a day that you could celebrate this country when it locks up 10-year old kids.
‘I don’t know there is a day when my people go to prison and they don’t come out – they come out in body bags. I don’t know if we could celebrate a day when the police are still shooting 19-year old Aboriginal boys, in handcuffs, in the back, on traditional land when they weren’t even supposed to be there.’
The nation’s appetite for an overtly traditional celebration complete with Australian flags and boxing kangaroos has greatly diminished in recent years.
Natasha Wanganeen believes a new Australia Day can only be found once the nation has righted all of its wrongs against her people
People rally during Invasion day protest in Melbourne on Tuesday
The Case To Change Australia Day
Australian actress and indigenous activist Natasha Wanganeen said politicians need the courage to lead the nation in the right direction.
‘Look at the citizen test online – they’ve still got that question asking what country did Aboriginals migrate from to get to Australia.
‘That is absolute crap. We have been here for over 200,000 years – longer than that … so it’s insulting that the government still has that up there teaching immigrants that we don’t come from here.’
Ms Wanganeen said her people’s men and youth still had the highest suicide rate on the planet.
‘Our women go to prison and get Tasered in the eyes and killed because they’re not getting looked after.’
‘So many things need to change and if we had a government that was brave enough to do that I would absolutely support that.’
Triple J announced three years ago it would no longer hold the iconic radio countdown on January 26 stating that it should be an event that ‘everyone can enjoy’.
Cricket Australia also made headlines after announcing this summer it would refer to the public holiday as ‘January 26’ celebrations and not Australia Day.
Pubs, supermarkets and even sporting clubs have largely turned their back on what once would have been traditional Australia Day festivities.
Even Aussie celebs have turned their back on the day, with Hollywood hunk Liam Hemsworth uploading an image of the Aboriginal flag on Tuesday under the banner: ‘Always Was, Always Will Be.’
It was a chant heard loudly in cities all over Australia on Tuesday by protesters both young and old.
Ms Wanganeen said a new day to celebrate Australia was still achievable.
‘I would love to celebrate this country for what I see it as and for what I know it is, but it’s hard to do that when the politicians and the government have so many things they’ve got to fix for my 10-year old daughter to be safe in her own country, on her own land,’ she said.
On Wednesday, NSW One Nation Leader Mark Latham refuted suggestions Australia Day was dead and buried.
‘The number of people who want to change the day are a small minority in each and every opinion poll – even those conducted by left-wing pollsters,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham maintains Australia Day ought be celebrated on January 26
The flag is flown over a boat on the Gold Coast on Tuesday
Emmanuelle Conde (formerly of France) gestures towards his daughter Madeline during an Australia Day Citizenship event at Woollahra Council Chambers on January 26 in Sydney
Why Australia Day Should Remain On January 26
NSW One Nation Leader Mark Latham said calls to ‘right the wrongs’ had already been answered.
‘There was a 50 year campaign to establish land rights in Australia. That was supposed to be the saviour and solve a whole bunch of problems and right a whole bunch of wrongs.’
‘The 1992 Mabo decision established the national land rights regime – and there’s a very generous state land right’s scheme as well.
‘But that didn’t close the gap. That has ended the squalor of indigenous, remote communities. That hasn’t ended the sexual child abuse, the family violence, the unemployment, the welfare dependence or drug and alcohol abuse.
‘So it’s almost like a broken promise. We were told … that the land rights regime would be the answer to all these problems and before that there was a long term call that more money needed to be spent in indigenous affairs.
‘And governments did that to the point now that per capita we spend twice as much on Aboriginal Australians than we do on non-Aboriginal.’
‘The majority of Australians recognise that the very best things about our country – the houses we live in, the engineering, the architecture, the technology, the health system, the education system, the transport system … all of these things came in 1788.’
Mr Latham maintained January 26 ought be the rightful time for Australia Day to be celebrated.
‘Not even Cricket Australia wanted to celebrate it’s own anniversary yesterday – the concept of cricket arriving in Australia 233 years ago,’ he said.
‘If you don’t celebrate the very best things that came to your nation on your national day well you’re not much of a country are you.
‘And in terms of the bad things that happen, and some bad things did happen, well people reflect on that. In my family and household, we reflect on the broad sweep of Australian history on Australia Day. So nobody sweeps things under the carpet.’
Mr Latham said he saw ‘plenty’ of patriotism on display yesterday despite the racist stigma associated with the day from political sections of the left.
‘People were sending me snaps of their children waving the Australian flag, a fellow around the corner had his house festooned in Australian flags – Australians by and large are not big marching band patriots like the Americans, but in their own, quiet methodical way I think a big majority of Australians love Australia Day,’ he said.