As an inveterate whinging Pom, I confess that whenever I think of Australia my heart is immediately swelled by images of extravagant wildlife, endless beaches, and friendly, laidback people; not to mention the sunshine, the barbies, and the Sheilas. Like the majority of unsophisticated Westerners, my introduction to the island continent was Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee, and his fabulous “Come and say G’day” advertising campaign.
So it is disturbing to observe that for an increasing number of Australians, Down Under appears to be a source of shame rather than pride. Rather predictably, this week’s Australia Day celebrations were mired by protest. There were calls, not just to change the date of ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day’ as the rebrands have it, but demands to abolish the ‘Celebration of genocide.’
Opposition to the day has been steadily building over recent years, something the pollsters actually agree on. In 2019, 40% of respondents confirmed they would be doing something special to mark the day; fast forward a mere four years, and that national pride has shrunk to 29%.
One major issue is the date itself. January 26th marks the anniversary of the 1788 landing of Britain’s First Fleet, and the establishment of a penal colony. The fixture of the day is also relatively recent—prior to 1994, the date was more flexible, affording the opportunity of a long weekend. It is only 29 years since January 26th became the national holiday we now call Australia Day. Far from a celebration, however, opponents of the holiday regard it as a day of mourning; they think it marks nothing less than the beginning of colonisation, and the dispossession, oppression, and murder of Australia’s indigenous people.
The subject is a pronounced generational conflict: while 70% of baby boomers are opposed to any change, 53% of millennials believe we should not celebrate Australia Day on January 26, although when Rebel reporter Avi Yemeni repeatedly asked these protestors which date they would prefer in lieu, none could provide an answer:
Among the indigenous community, feelings are more balanced. While there have been formal Aboriginal protests since 1938, polling suggests that 23% of Aboriginals feel positive about Australia Day, compared to 31% who feel negatively. 30%claim mixed feelings.
For instance, indigenous leader, Pastor James Dargin, advocates for unity on Australia Day:
Let’s come together and call it Unity Day, Forgiveness Day—to forgive each other, to love one another. It should be a day of celebration, of love. Hug someone. Forgive somebody. Love somebody. That’s what we should be celebrating. What happened in the past was horrific. Let’s come together, let’s build a future for the next generation. One I forgive you is worth a thousand sorrys.
The flipside to this is Greens senator and indigenous rights campaigner, Lidia Thorpe, who took the opportunity of the ‘Invasion Day’ protest to declare: “This is a war. They are still killing us. They are still killing our babies. What do we have to celebrate in our country?” The protestors carried placards with phrases like “Australia racist since 1788” and “No pride in genocide.”
Thorpe has form when it comes to rather sweeping use of the word genocide. She was quite happy to accuse the Queen of it in the wake of her death. She considers the alleged mistreatment of aboriginal boys in detention centres to be genocidal, as well as the Australian flag itself.
So it is distressing to see that not only are Australia’s youth more staunchly opposed to the holidays than the Aboriginals they claim to support, but they are also more compelled by the divisive arguments of politicians like Thorpe than they are by the unity one would assume ‘inclusive’ policies are supposed to engender.
There is something profoundly wrong about this. If you are more aggrieved by the injustices of history than those people directly affected by them, you may be displaying something other than compassion. Sadly, the love of protest, the desire to erase history, and a maudlin resentment of one’s nation is hardly an alien phenomenon. Across the Western world, young people appear to be struggling to fill the hole historically occupied by national pride. Most of their energies now appear directed into ever-more ludicrous demonstrations of public self-flagellation.
Whether it is begging forgiveness for crimes you did not commit from those who did not suffer (Black Lives Matter), insisting men compete in female sports to ‘protect women,’ or canonising climate-change activists, who lecture you about your carbon emissions from the comfort of their private jets—there is a never-ending stream of the young, willing to take up the protest. The causes are purely incidental; the only thing which matters is the negligibility of the issue, and the violence with which you are able to scream your objection.
Why does it never occur to the protestors to actually do something? Turn the heating off and take a cold shower; ditch the iPhones and the iPads; give their jobs and income to ‘people of colour’; or simply leave the country if they are so ashamed of it? Perhaps those actions performed quietly and diligently do not generate the social rewards essential to the transaction?
I think former Prime Minister Scott Morrison had it about right when he said back in 2018:
We don’t have to pull Australia Day down to actually recognise the achievements of Indigenous Australia, the oldest living culture in the world; the two can coexist. Australia Day is Australia Day. You can’t pretend your history isn’t your history.
The great irony of these protests is that, as with all ‘woke’ issues, it is impossible to get ahead of the game. Current ‘correct’ attitudes are defunct within six months, and today’s freedom fighters will be tomorrow’s appropriators of indigenous voices. Will they never learn?