Former coalition industry minister Ian Macfarlane today added his voice to calls for Australia Day to be moved from January 26, saying the country will be brought closer together if the national day isn’t associated with past wrongs.
Speaking at Australian Unity’s Great Australia Day breakfast at Parliament House in Melbourne, Mr Macfarlane said a change of date is “about uniting people. It’s about healing a wound, drawing a line, getting on with the really important issues facing our Indigenous communities.”
“As a conservative, Anglo Celtic Australian, I want to play a part in the push to changing the date of Australia Day. I believe it is an important way to prevent a potential schism in Australia’s society and to remove a potential road block to reconciliation and a greater Australia,” he said.
“Why do I think we should change the date from January 26? Simple. Because not all Australians feel the same way about the date,” Mr Macfarlane said.
Australian Unity Group Managing Director Rohan Mead also called for a mature, respectful conversation about changing the date of Australia Day.
“Having a day on which to celebrate all the great things about Australia is as important now as ever,” Mr Mead said. “But that day should have the support and goodwill of all of us, including and I’d go as far as to suggest particularly, Australia’s First Peoples.”
While Mr Mead recognised the range of views Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold on this issue, he said there was enough discomfort to warrant discussing alternative dates.
He said Australian Unity, one of the country’s oldest mutual organisations, had a special involvement with Australia Day. In 1888 its antecedent organisation, the Australian Natives’ Association, first celebrated 26th January, the anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet, as the national day, and was a leading voice in subsequent efforts to formalise the day as Australia Day.
“Given this history, we raise our voice to urge a reassessment in the light of improved understanding and in warm-hearted reconciliation,’’ Mr Mead said.
“Our organisation, like the nation itself, must reconcile its relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and re-thinking the date of Australia Day is a valuable step along that path.
Mr Macfarlane proposed the alternative Australia Day date of March 1, commemorating the date in 1901 on which the Commonwealth government first began taking control of many of the functions formerly exercised by the colonies.