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Fuck You and Your Barbecue: The Government's stance on January 26 is an insult to Australia

Is there something in the water in Canberra?

Between marriage equality and the citizenship saga, it’s been Quite A Time in federal politics lately. And now, just when you thought our Parliament couldn’t look any more like some sort of farcical sketch comedy, Turnbull & Co have weighed in on Australia Day – or, more specifically, one local council’s move to change the date.
 
Yarra Council – which includes areas like Richmond, Abbotsford, Collingwood and Fitzroy; all inner-city, progressive suburbs – moved on Tuesday night to stop celebrating the date of January 26, cease holding citizenship ceremonies on that date, and support the campaign to #changethedate.
 
Seems pretty fair, right? For Aboriginal Australians, January 26, 1788, was the beginning of massacre, land theft and even loss of legal status as humans for nearly 200 years – hardly an occasion to whip out the barbecue and drink one too many VBs. So Yarra, led by mayor Amanda Stone, said they want January 26 to instead “encourage people to stop and think about what this date really means in the history of our nation.”
 
Instead, they’ll hold events to acknowledge the Aboriginal experience of January 26 – not as a celebration, but a day of mourning that belongs to our traditional owners. The same traditional owners who even now, centuries later, still have embarrassingly worse health, mental health and social outcomes thanks to systemic injustice and mistreatment from white government.
 
It’s a bold move, being the first council to take such a big step away from our national day – and to be honest, it’s bold moves like these that we need in this country at the moment. But of course, the Federal Government – and its opposition, as well - aren’t happy with the move away from January 26. They’ve banned Yarra from holding any citizenship ceremonies at all until they reverse the decision. Cute, hey?
 
Our mate Malcolm said the decision takes a day that "unites Australia and turns it into one that divides it" – remembering, of course, how goddamn united we all are when we drunkenly boogie to our favourite bangers of the year, Aussie flags (resplendent with the Union Jack, of course) draped around our shoulders, while they mourn 229 years of mistreatment and murder.
 
Of course, he’s talking about how united we all are when the life expectancy of Aboriginals is 10.6 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. How one in three women in jail in Australia are Aboriginal. How the infant mortality rate is almost double. How literally 50 percent of suicide in Australians in 2010 was by Indigenous people. Yep – let’s talk about unity, shall we?
 
Now, I’m the first to tell you that there are a lot of great things about Australia. It’s a beautiful big multicultural hunk of land where, really, we’re safe to go where we want, say what we want and live our lives largely unpersecuted. We have it pretty good – and yeah, Australians have made some remarkable achievements over the past two centuries. I’m proud to have grown up here, proud to have gone through the education system here, and will one day be proud to bring up children of my own as Australians.
 
But I’m white. I come from a middle-class white family with English and French heritage – so January 26 means nothing to me other than a day off work to sleep and get irate about stupid pop songs that are way more popular than they should be. I can’t imagine how I would feel if a country, whose government had pledged to include my people in the constitution of the land that is traditionally ours, insisted on honouring the Australians of the Year on the day my ancestors lost everything they had – and shot down anyone who tried to change it.
 
Do it on January 1st – the anniversary of Federation. Do it on February 13, when the Stolen Generation was finally apologised to. Heck, do it on May 8, because we’re all….mayyytes. Just don’t insult the Indigenous community when they continually say it’s a day of mourning, and prosecute anyone who has the vision to stand up and do something about it.