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September 18, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The wrong date

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Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788, commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip. He rowed ashore at Sydney Cove and raised the Union Jack to proclaim British sovereignty. 

Yep, the day that everyone is so hell bent on defending as Australia Day marks British Rule. It should be called ‘Empire Day’. If you want to celebrate the conquest of an Empire, 26 January is the date, but not if you want to celebrate the country we call Australia, its history and diversity. It’s not just an offensive date to Indigenous people, it’s offensive to ALL Australians. It’s the wrong fucking date. I don’t celebrate my birthday on the date my mother lost her virginity. 

Why are we celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet? Most of our ancestors were in chains. Celebrating that day is a bit like celebrating refugees arriving at Manus Island. Claiming a country that other people were already living on and had for over 60,000 years as ‘British’ doesn’t seem very Australian. If anything, it commemorates that we were complicit in Grand Theft Australia – something Thomas Keneally details in his book A Commonwealth of Thieves. 

Our nation was settled by the English who incarcerated people for stealing a loaf of bread – but then turned around and stole an entire continent, in front of the people they’d locked up and removed from their lives and families for petty theft. 

January 26 marks a day of British conquest. They actually arrived in Botany Bay on 24 January and waited on the boat because they were too scared to get off. They sat quivering on the deck terrified of what to them was an inhospitable, savage country, wondering just where one day they should pop their stinking toxic oil refinery. 

Ironically we celebrate Australia Day on the date they found NSW. There was no such thing as Australia back then. January 26 is significant to the English, not I would think to anyone who considers themselves ‘Australian’. I won’t celebrate that. 

The transportation of convicts and the use of them as slave labour, the dispossession of the Indigenous – that is how European settlement happened in this country. That’s what anchors 26 January. Cruelty, exploitation and cultural annihilation. 

Americans don’t celebrate their national day marking British occupation – they mark when they got rid of them. July 4 is Independence Day, when Americans celebrate the time during the American Revolutionary War when 13 colonies of the kingdom of Great Britain voted to declare themselves independent from the crown, forming the USA. Then two days after that on 4 July the Declaration of Independence was signed. That’s the right day to celebrate your ‘country hood’. 

Unfortunately we were too lazy or pissweak to have a revolution to get rid of the British. We politely waited for permission for self-governance. ‘Please, Sir? If it is okay with you, Sir?’ I guess that’s why we’ve never adopted that day as ours – because nothing ‘really’ happened. Nothing as thrilling as whacking a flag in a cove and discovering the best real estate in the damn country. 

It was just a bunch of dudes signing a decree somewhere in Westminster. But that is the day we became an independent nation. When we became the Australia that we live in today – our convict-settled, multicultural, stolen country. Australia Day should be when we recognise our independence when we had the autonomy to start pulling the threads together. Federation Day happened on 1 January 1901. The British parliament passed legislation allowing the six Australian colonies to govern in their own right as part of the Commonwealth of Australia. Why isn’t that Australia Day? I guess they should have been thinking about public holidays when that important document was signed. 

Typical of the English to fuck that up for us too! What were they doing even working on New Years day? I can just imagine, ‘Jolly Good, if they want independence they can bloody well have it on the most inconvenient day of the year’. 

January 1 ALREADY is a public holiday. And who wants to get ‘Australian’ of the Year nominations sorted over the Xmas period? What if the Aussie flags don’t arrive from China in time? Will there be enough beer? Will people’s livers cope with the extra load? 

Australia Day should be 1 January. Or when we become a republic. Or just another day. Considering the only cultural activities we’re celebrating are thong throwing and pie eating it’s a very small but important change in our nation’s story for Indigenous Australians. 

It’s not too late to Change the Date and get it right. For every Australian.

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  1. Well, yes and no Mandy.
    On January 26, 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Sydney Harbour at about 11am and landed at Farm Cove about 4pm.
    They cleared the land pushed back the bush and unloaded the provisions and erected crude huts and established a place to camp with the fresh water from the Tank Stream.
    That work took a fortnight. It was not until February 7 that they erected a flag on a pole and said a few words to proclaim the land in the name of Great Britain. (The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, page 87)

  2. What’s the big deal about the date? Leave it alone. Australia Day is a day to celebrate our great country and the sacrifices our fore-fathers made to build it and keep it safe. That’s what I celebrate. Sick of all the fools trying to divide us year after year.

    • What about the sacrifices the indigenous forefathers and foremothers were forced to make to give you your enjoyment of this great country? Don’t count?

  3. White Australia has done very well out of the Invasion why shouldn’t they celebrate on the day that white privalidge began ?its very appropriate date ,maybe for the rest of us we should mourn & don Sackcloth & ashes

  4. Yep just attack everything that crosses your path just as as a standard heckeler does every year., you always do such a great job at that and it is soooo predictably your time of year to bitterly, further educate us …,yet again ,ad nauseum. my trick question is, Why dont you promote some good Australian stuff? Or is that too far out of the metoocommomalehatred bitter-box ?
    SO I will do it for you with Australia in mind I would ask who was the first Australian to circumnavigate Australia
    as Matthew Flinders was a Pommie https://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/worldtoday/who-was-the-1st-australian-to-really-circumnavigate-the-country/10742118 Get edjumacated kids

  5. Fully agree, Mandy. My mum’s birthday was Jan 26 & she refused
    to celebrate what’s called Australia Day because there were far
    too many victims attached to that date. Even my Irish Grandmother
    said codswallop to it. Australia belongs to her people, all of ’em. Not
    the Primed-up P.M. Simplistic it is. The game of ‘name throwing’ &
    ‘flag throwing’ has just got to stop before we go even more crackers.
    Like I’ve said before – the original Aussies who were here first &
    didn’t call themselves that are the ones to make the decision of the
    date they were over-run. End of story. 1st of Jan it is I think.

  6. I agree with Wendy, leave it alone our forefathers built this land and fought for it in wars, don’t you think some other country would have taken this land, it could of been under worse rulers than what we have now.

  7. What happened on January 26 can’t b changed but what is happening now can 48% in youth detention r indigenous but only 3% of the population. Whatever your view is on this topic u can’t justify stats like that. I can’t celebrate being Australian when the first people of this grate land r sinking around us.

  8. 21 st Jan 1788 Philip enter Sydney harbour and cooked a meal at Camp Cove (boiled meat.) He then spent several days exploring the coves of Port Jackson trying to find the best location to settle. On 26 Jan he settled on Sydney Cove and sent for goods from Botany Bay to be landed there. February 7th they had landed sufficient cargo and goods and then raised the flag. The real date of the founding of white settlement in New South Wales could be any date from 21st Jan to the 7th Feb – if you want to celebrate it, take your pick. I wouldn’t celebrate moving into a house on the day the delivery trucks arrive but the day I signed the lease or exchanged the contract. Oh wait! No treaty yet! Guess we are still hanging on the exchange.

    For further info, please consult the following document:

  9. yes what she said ! thanks Mandy

    I’m a born and bred Aussie bloke
    With colonial blood inside
    Living in Australia, we are so blessed
    Yet with first nations I have cried

    I grew up seeing them as different
    And saw anger and fear in their eyes
    Surviving still as best they could
    Whilst beaten of their pride

    But much more than that
    Their lives, Their children,
    their Country and their Lore
    Taken swift and deadly
    Ripped apart at their very core

    Yet I will carry no guilt for my ancestry’s actions
    Though much trauma still remains
    We’ll never Advance Australia Fair
    Until we cleanse our greatest stain

    Every argument I’ve seen to keep the date
    Preaches of uniting
    Yet for 80 years they’ve been ignored
    It’s no wonder that they’re still fighting

    What is it you fear about changing the date ?
    When it’s obviously not all inclusive
    And history shows clearly
    the date you hold dearly
    In truth was only intrusive

    So on the 26th of January in Twenty Nineteen
    My home, Byron Bay is rewriting the dream
    We will mourn what was lost and celebrate survival
    Only good things will come from an indigenous revival

    What a simple bloody step in closing the gap
    all it takes is action from Respect
    From little things big things grow
    Lest we forget

  10. Good one Paul! This one’s for all & anyone who gives a genuine damn.

    MARGINS: January 26 Australia Day

    They keep on locking up the wrong people:
    It’s got something to do with habit.
    Habit’s a pretty ineffectual word.

    When habit was introduced to habit
    Nothing happened. When fate
    Sauntered in the perspective had to change.

    Fate now sits beside habit. They preside
    Over sham and other assorted
    Delinquencies conjured from the noun’s handbook.

    At a time, a spaceless time when numbers
    Belong to colours and words are fathered in factories
    It’s hard to place the game squarely.

    In addition, add numerically spotted bars
    And a voice pitched high in erasion
    To backwash the bright, the beautiful.

    They keep on locking up the wrong people.
    You have to get in from the outside to discover
    Why they keep on locking up the wrong people.

  11. I reckon we should flick the Queens birthday ,which isn’t her birthday anyway , become a republic ,and celebrate that day when we become an independent country . It would eliminate the arguing over the invasion of the country ,it’s a good time of the year,we have a holiday anyway ,and it would be truly Australia Day for all people to celebrate .

  12. Well written Mandy, thanks for that.

    It’s a shame many Australians don’t look beyond the previous few generations. And I wonder if those same narrow minded people would change their point of view if this great land was invaded in the future.

    I liked the reference to the Brits stuffing things up. Haha!


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