January 26, Australia Day, marks the anniversary of the arrival of British ships into Port Jackson in New South Wales. With the benefit of hindsight that was the moment when everything changed for Australia’s First Nation people – especially their position as the traditional custodians of the land.
For most of us, Australia Day has just been a great day off to celebrate the nation – you’d like to think that no modern Aussie would pointedly celebrate colonisation and all “catastrophic effects on the first Australians,” as Andrew Hamilton writes.
But, he continues, Australia Day could be so much more than it is – first with “open acknowledgement of the traditional owners of land”, and then by celebrating the diversity of our nation.
“The streets would be lined with stalls offering pie floaters, pasta, halal and kosher meats, empanadas, fish chowder, boko-boko, rice, chicken korma, falafel wraps, noodles, pupusas, roti, risotto, kimchi, octopus curry, pork pies, bat soup and Vegemite sandwiches.”
That vision of a more unified Australia Day is possible – but first, it means implementing a significant change. If that is a date change, Hamilton argues that we should choose one where nothing much happened at all.