Posts Tagged ‘Australian government’

January 26 is when Australia celebrates itself as a nation.

January 26 1788, when ships of the ‘first fleet’ landed on a beach in Sydney Cove and founded a penal colony – and because of that, people up to thousands of kilometres away from that place today will celebrate it.

I have in a previous posting suggested that January 26 is not the right date to celebrate the nation of Australia.There are numerous arguments surrounding this date; the foremost being the invasion concept, whereby white people invaded Australia, dispossessing the inhabitants of access to lands they had used for millennia. Whether or not you subscribe to that concept, there is validity in it, if only at an historical level. It is true that over the first century of European settlement, white people overcame and dominated where once indigenous culture held sway, and today this is a western nation with history both good and bad – this is not just opinion, it is historic fact…

Be that as it may… I believe that January 26 is the wrong date even if you do not have an indigenous heritage.

Celebrating the landing of the First fleet as the beginning of Australia must be an insult to all those who call Australia HOME!

Celebrating the landing of ships from elsewhere suggests that we (Australians) are a relocated people, that HOME is really elsewhere.I may have a European heritage, and it is nice to reflect on and learn from that, but I am insulted at the mere suggestion that home (or the old country) is elsewhere. Others will have a European, Asian, African, indigenous (or some other) heritage, and their heritage will mean to them what it will mean to them; but if they are Australian and call Australia their home, how can January 26 and what its origins are, be a fitting date to celebrate the nation as a whole?

March 3 is a more fitting date to celebrate the nation of Australia, for it was on March 3 1986 that the government abolished the right to appeal to the Privy Council in London, thereby removing the ability of the British Government to make laws for Australia. In essence, making Australia a fully sovereign, independent and federal nation.This may appear to some a somewhat technical or officious act. How or why can people celebrate a holiday based on a piece of paper? The most well known secular holiday in the world is based on a piece of paper – the 4th of July.

The United States of America celebrates the signing of their declaration of independence from Great Britain on the fourth of July 1776 (twelve years before the First fleet). Thirteen colonies became states under a national legislature (Congress). To establish this new country’s rights they were then already at war with Great Britain.

The US celebrates their country on the date they became a country. We (on the other had) celebrate this county on the date we became a prison.

Another thing that we can celebrate about Australia, especially on a different date, is the fact that

  • Australia became federated in peace (1 January 1901) ,
  • Australia was granted political autonomy in peace, though in the middle of WW2 (9 October 1942)
  • Australia was granted full and legal autonomy in peace (3 March 1986)

Australia became a fully federated, independent, sovereign, and federal nation in peace – when so many other nations came to be in war.

Celebrate Australia!

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As I see it, it is a rare phenomenon when a government creates its legacy early in its tenure in power, it must therefore be quite unique when a government creates its legacy to history with its first act in parliament or legislature.

The Australian Labor government has announced that it will issue an official apology to the stolen generation, on the first sitting of the new parliament, for previous wrongs done by the government to Aboriginals. Many government policies have impacted negatively on the indigenous populations, and such an acknowledgment of the dire consequences of those policies by the newly elected contemporary government will probably be seen as a great step forward in social justice and may lend this government an image of a righter of past wrongs… or will it?

The apology and acknowledgment of past wrongs imposed on Aboriginals is an act that is many many years overdue. Long did we watch the previous prime minister, John Howard, play semantic games expressing regret, doing all he could to avoid one word – Sorry. On other issues, the previous government was at once either blind to what was obvious (climate change), willfully confrontational (boat people), clearly discriminatory (gay rights), officious and callous (the Rau and Solon episodes), the list goes on.

The foreshadowed action by the new government will probably be seen as a great step forward in social justice, but it may also be seen as an act toward simply catching up to where our understanding of what kind of social justice and level of human rights ought to be accepted in Australia. Have we, after eleven years of very conservative rule, become so bankrupt in recognising and living social justice that the act of doing something so overdue as the apology to the stolen generation is seen as a wonder, and as the one social justice thing this government can live on for the rest of its tenure. In other words, if this government is true to its defense of social justice and human rights; the apology, while being a great step in social justice, it must not be its only step.

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