Opinion: January 26 isn't the right day to celebrate our nation

I love Australia. I love our care-free and lovable nature. I love that the humble meat pie is our national icon and I even love that thongs are an acceptable fashion statement.

But across the country, there is unrest, with thousands debating the significant history of our own special day – Australia Day.  

Councils in Victoria and South Australia have caused contention by proposing to change the date and ditch citizenship ceremonies on January 26. I think it’s about time. 

We accept Australia Day as a day of Australia’s inception but with a more socially conscious society, the day is becoming a little like chicken-flavoured Twisties – tolerated – but not all that enjoyable. 

January 26 is the day the First Fleet arrived on Australian soil in 1788. It’s also seen as the same day foreigners invaded a country and massacred an unassuming Indigenous population.

I do not presume to understand the terror Indigenous people have lived through since that fateful day in 1788. My ancestors have lived on Australian soil for at least four generations and I was brought up with pride for this country.

But patriotism has become tainted with rising political and social unrest forcing a spotlight on Australia’s history. 

From a young age, we have been taught to view Australia Day as a day of pride and freedom. 

But how can we be proud to celebrate the day of our settlement, when it also marked the beginning of centuries of oppression and violence for our Indigenous counterparts?

How can it be a day of pride when there is so much blood on white hands?

I accept that advocates will say Australia Day is a celebration of our growth since 1788 but why does it have to be January 26? 

What about May 27? When Australia in 1967 recognised Indigenous people in the census and under Commonwealth law. 

Personally, I would like to see January 26 changed as Australia Day. I see it as a reminder to our Indigenous counterparts of the violence and oppression inflicted upon them. 

Australia has come a long way but it still has a little further to go in equality. We are an incredible country and we should have a national day that all Australians can celebrate, but January 26 isn’t it.

  • Meg Francis is a reporter for Fairfax Media’s north-west Sydney group.