Australians have been urged to consider changing the national holiday because it commemorates the arrival of British settlers — a day of “pain and bewilderment” for Aboriginal people.
Celebrated author Thomas Keneally, who penned the book ‘Schindler’s Ark’ which was later made into the blockbuster movie ‘Schindler’s List,’ said marking Australia Day on January 26 was a “double-edged sword.”
“On Australia Day, I believe, most reasonable Australians now admit that the descent of European people upon Australia brought bewilderment and pain for the (Aboriginal) Eora people of the Sydney basin,” he said.
Keneally said it was “worth debating” moving Australia Day from January 26 — the date the first fleet of British convicts arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788 and termed “Invasion Day” by many indigenous Australians.
Prominent Aboriginal lawyer and activist Mick Dodson backed Keneally’s calls for a national discussion on Australia Day but said the date was not as important as the meaning of the celebration.
“What to me is important is, ‘What does the day mean?’ And if we get the meaning right and the date doesn’t become as relevant, then perhaps we can live with January 26,” he told ABC radio.
The Australian flag, which features Britain’s Union Jack in its top left corner, also came under scrutiny ahead of the national day along with the country’s old-fashioned anthem “Advance Australia Fair.”
But Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard defended the flag, saying it was an important national symbol and said she supported keeping Australia Day on January 26, despite injustices committed against Aborigines.
“When we talk about this nation’s history, we’ve got to be frank about the good things and also frank about the things that are to be regretted,” she said.