Narelda Jacobs: January 26 Doesn't Represent Who We Are. Change The Date.
I’m as patriotic as any Australian.
I love our land of opportunity and its big-hearted people. I love the way we stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a crisis. I love the way we call out injustice and inequality, which is exactly why we need to change the date of our patriotic day.
Like many Australians, I’ve had mixed feelings about January 26 -- the day the First Fleet arrived. I have mixed blood, with a Noongar father and a British mother.
As a nine-year-old, my beloved dad was stolen and forced into a mission, never to see his parents ever again. Around the same time, my mum migrated from Northern Ireland with her family.
My four sisters and I were raised with a strong Aboriginal identity, but we also embraced our British heritage.
For most of my life, I’d felt it hypocritical to refer to January 26 as Invasion Day because I’d believed January 26 symbolised half of who I am.
I now realise my long-held beliefs were misguided because there’s nothing about the First Fleet that reflects who I am, nor does it reflect Australia’s current identity.
January 26 is not a date worthy of celebration as our patriotic day.
It’s a date that represents the displacement of petty criminals, forced to make the arduous journey across oceans to become slave labour, and the subsequent slaughter of thousands.
For many Indigenous Australians, January 26 signifies the beginning of this country’s darkest era. The worst possible date to celebrate who we are as modern, free-thinking Australians.
I now realise I don’t owe the First Fleet any gratitude and neither does Australia. This land could’ve been colonised in peace, with a treaty and constitution recognising its original inhabitants.
Instead, Aboriginal kinship, lore, and environmental systems were denied and attempts were made to eradicate a people who’d lived in harmony.
Now as apologies are made, wrongs are acknowledged and plans are afoot to change the constitution, it’s time for us to unite as a multi-cultural nation and give all Australians a day we can celebrate together.
Only since 1994 has January 26 been given nationwide public holiday status -- so it's hardly a date set in stone as our national day of celebration.
I feel the best date to mark Australia Day is before January 26... before the date that signifies the beginning of our darkest past... before the arrival of the First Fleet.
I propose Australia Day should fall on the third Monday of January. It’s a date that will never coincide with January 26 and yet allows time for the new year to settle in. A time to contemplate the year ahead and resolve to make Australia better. A time that doesn’t celebrate incarceration or invasion, but a day we unite as an inclusive nation.
That is what Australia Day should stand for.
Narelda will be co-hosting NITV’s Sunrise Ceremony live from North Head in Manly on January 26 from 6am—8am simulcast on Network 10.
For further info on the campaign to change the date, go here.