Australia Day Reform: A modest suggestion

From time to time, I make “modest suggestions” for the political reform of our nation (see in the side bar of this page my suggestion for an Australian Constitutional Monarchy). Not many (ie. none) have been taken up by those in charge (ie. the people of Australia).

Well, here’s another one. It concerns the date of Australia Day. For good reason, many have agitated for a change from January 26 to something a little less historically and ideologically charged. However, no other date seems to work.

This blog post makes a number of suggestions for alternative dates. But none of them really work. Think of January 1st, “Federation Day”. It’s already a public holiday, and it is smack bang in the middle of Australia’s “off season”. 9th and 27th of May are just as ideologically charged as 26th January – from the opposite direction. Or what about the suggestion of the Monday of Melbourne Cup weekend? Sorry, again, for many of us it is already an unofficial holiday – and do we really want to make a horse race the focus of our national day?

One reason for the inertia in doing anything about Australia Day is that the timing of the holiday works – perfectly. It concludes the January break. After the Monday holiday for Australia day, everybody is back at work. And school begins that week. It is the last great “hurrah” of the Summer shutdown.

So here is an idea. Why should we have a “fixed” date for Australia Day? There is no fixed “Melbourne Cup Day”, or Queen’s Birthday holiday, or even Easter. The day itself is special, not the historical date it commemorates. So here is my “modest proposal”: why not simply make the last Monday in January “Australia Day”? That would cut it loose from the events of 26th January 1788 as “Invasion Day”. It would solve the silly fact that we often have the public holiday on a day other than Australia Day itself. AND (most importantly for Ozzie culcha) it would preserve the most iconic Long Weekend in the Australian calendar.

What think you?

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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5 Responses to Australia Day Reform: A modest suggestion

  1. matthias says:

    My sentiments exactly. For me ANZAC Day has had more significance

  2. Mark Henderson says:

    “So here is my “modest proposal”: why not simply make the last Monday in January “Australia Day”? That would cut it loose from the events of 26th January 1788 as “Invasion Day”.”

    A good suggestion but for the tendentious justification.

    We need to embrace our British origins as establishing the foundation that makes our nation what it is today. That does not necessarily mean disregarding the contributions of other nationalities or the status of the indigenous peoples as the ‘first nations’ in the land. To do otherwise is to engage in historical revisionism.

    • Schütz says:

      Well, you know me, always happy to do a bit of historical revisionism. Our country does have British origiins, but it has a whole lot of other origins too, as you, a Lutheran pastor (though one of British descent rather than German) should know!

  3. matthias says:

    I am always mystified why other states asides from the obvious in NSW,celebrate their foundation days e.g Proclamation Day in SA ,and Canberra Day ,whilst Victoria never really celebrates either proclamation of self government or separation from NSW .And Eureka Stockade day -the Rebellion that caused the Victorian parliament to bring about secret ballot, and universal suffrage ( men only at that in the beginning)
    Pastor Henderson is right regarding both maintaining our British heritage and the contribution of migrant and indigenous Australians. Perhaps Australia Day could be transferred to the date when the Colonies voted to become a Federation- not the actual day to mark Federation or the date when federation was proclaimed in the UK-9th July 1899.

  4. matthias says:

    That should be 9th July 1900 not 1899

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