Australia Day must be Jan 26, but still needs to change

SOON you'll put down your flags and it will be over for another year.

We have slogged through the annual homage to all things Australian: the booze, the music, the tiny China-made flags, but not without the usual hang-wringing and folded arms.

January 26 is a lot of things. For most Australians it is time to unashamedly celebrate the great things about this nation. Its freedoms, its beauty and the way we have continued to live in relative harmony and peace since our formation.

That is not something too many countries in the modern world can mark.

For others it's the day that colonists arrived in Australia, marking the start of the destruction and disruption of the world's longest surviving culture.

It is also when Australia hits peak political correctness and every commentator wants to stake their claim on what Australia Day really means.

This year it is more divisive than usual as the campaign to change the date ramps up. Guardian Australia has called for a change of date. Others have launched a campaign to shift it to May 8 (say it aloud: maaate) and the usual suspects in the LNP and One Nation are calling them wimps and loony lefties.

(Warning: some rough language in video below)

While the conservatives in power are complaining about the wimps on the "left", they have at least taken a position with the Prime Minister dismissing the idea of a date change.

Given these are the folks in power, does that mean keeping Australia Day on January 26 is the "politically correct" option? These positions did get them elected after all.

Labor have generally kept silent on this, preferring to stay out of the fray. Sooks. Bill Shorten said he was "totally relaxed" about Labor's candidate in WA calling for a change of date.

There is a centre ground here, but yelling across the divide is far better for publicity and electioneering.

The reality is that changing the date will not unite Australia.

It will not create a love-in of acceptance and multiculturalism and tolerance. What it will do is enshrine a massive division across the land, even more gigantic than the schisms we already face.

The solution is not to move the day (although May 8 should be a public holiday because maaate), but to include an acknowledgment and some understanding of our past each Australia Day.

Maybe an Anzac Day-type at dawn so there is a formal outlet for those who want to reflect on how Australia became the country we love - without hiding the scars and trauma that comes with that.

There are few nations that have existed without unspeakable cruelty being visited on its own people.

Australia isn't poorer for commemorating Anzac Day, when so many of our young men were dispatched to certain death for a failed campaign on the shores of Turkey.

But if we accept that we're all Aussies and we all love Australia - no matter our backgrounds, beliefs or gender - then it's time for us to accept that Australia Day may not mean the same thing to everyone.

Taking that into account doesn't make Australia any less great, but ignoring it certainly could.

Owen Jacques is a senior journalist and Online News Editor with News Regional Media.

He is on Facebook and Twitter.

Topics:  australia day editors picks

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