Changing the date won’t cancel out historical atrocities

26 Jan 2022

Hobart Mercury

EVERY year the debate about Australia Day brings up raw and sensitive matters that afflict the history of our nation.

Taking time to reflect on our history — the good, the bad and the ugly — and what it means for modern Australia is critically important in an open, free and liberal democracy.

Every chapter of our past needs to be honestly recorded.

Only then can we look forward without ignoring the past and find ways to grow in the hope of a united and strong future as Australians.

It is important to acknowledge that January 26 is a vexed day for many. This includes an honest reflection as to what this day signifies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders — – stirring up thoughts of atrocities against their people and more recent examples of mistreatment, particularly the Stolen Generations.

I struggle to find a Tasmanian, or Australian, who does not want to respectfully reflect on these injustices. I also struggle to find an Australian who does not reflect on what is good about our nation. And that gives me hope.

To focus on the good and ignore the bad does not serve us, just as focusing on every dark chapter of our past to the exclusion of the positive things fails us all. The most divisive topic in relation to Australia Day has of course been to change the date.

Many have called for the date to be changed, and some prominent Indigenous voices have rejected the idea of changing the date: Linda Burney, Ken Wyatt, Stan Grant and Noel Pearson to name a few. Each of these leaders advocate for acknowledgment of January 26 as a date of reflection on the injustices Indigenous Australians face. That should be a very important part of this day so significant to our nation.

This day should also be a time to recognise what is good about our nation.

How successful our multicultural communities are, and the ample opportunity Australia offers so many. are a diverse country with a rich heritage.

A change in the date will not improve the wellbeing of Indigenous people, nor change historical events.

It would, in my view, be an attempt to cancel what actually happened on and since January 26, 1788, rather than acknowledge it.

I hope we, as a nation, can unite to celebrate the future of the best country on earth, to work together to ensure we can improve the lives of all Australians.

Reflecting on our past and focusing on making our future better is what I will be doing this Australia Day. I hope others do the same.