For the Love of Australia…
Yesterday, after posting the picture of enslaved Aborigines along with a description of what Australia Day represents to their present ancestors (Invasion Day), I experienced both an expected amount of resentful criticism, and a surprising amount of genuine appreciation. I’m grateful for both, especially the criticism, because it challenged me to consider possibilities for Australia to make progress toward greater unity, understanding, and respect between Australians and Aborigines.
To paraphrase, one of my friends and critics asked me, “Alright, Michael. If celebrating Australia Day is such an insensitive and disrespectful thing to do for Aborigines, what would YOU do if you were Prime Minister?”
It has taken a day to think about it, but I believe I have a great solution for this issue. It was inspired by the suggestion of Steven Westbrook Sr and the many Australians who feel that, while Aborigines may experience it differently, Australia Day for Australians is a day of celebrating the greatness and diversity of Australia with their family and friends. The needs and feelings of both groups are valid and worthy of great respect. I have absolutely no desire to be Prime Minister of any country, but if I WERE Prime Minister of Australia, I believe that the following solution would work well for everyone…
I would move Australia Day away from January 26th, a day that represents British colonialism, to January 1st, the day that represents when the country went from being a group of independent British colonies to a true, independent nation as the Federation of Australia. That day is literally when the country of Australia was established as what it presently is today.
After establishing Australia Day on the day that Australia became a nation, I would establish January 26th as the national holiday of Aboriginal History Day. I would also establish it as the day for a gathering of Aboriginal Elders to meet with Australian politicians in Canberra to discuss all important matters for the previous and upcoming year related to the Aborigines, as well as asking for their wisdom in regard to other matters affecting Australian society. Next, I would triple the penalties for any violent/destructive crime for the entire nation on that day, Lastly, I would place a 200% product value tax on alcohol prices. I would do all of this for many reasons:
1) It would be an act of the nation of Australia annually showing acknowledgment, respect, and appreciation for the entire 50,000 years of Aboriginal cultural history, and also for their day of mourning. This would also resolve the feelings of the Aborigines that their cultural history is gradually being forgotten and erased.
2) It would remove the present “slap in the face” feelings of Aborigines that the celebration of Australia’s cultural greatness is on the same day that the Aborigines recognize as the day that the greatest and most painful history of THEIR culture was brought about by the very same culture that’s being celebrated.
3) It would remove the Aborigines resentful and painful feelings that their culture and history is not important to the people that expects THEM to love, and integrate into, Australian culture. In other words, they would feel mutual respect.
4) It would inspire pride and empowerment to Aboriginal people instead of the shame, embarrassment, and loss that they traditionally experience on this day, gradually changing the experience from “Invasion Day” to “celebrate our culture” day.
5) As a national holiday, the respect and appreciation for Aboriginal culture and history would forevermore be an integral part of every single Australian child’s life, education, culture, and awareness. No Australian child would ever be able to forget or dismiss the importance of the Aborigines in their own cultural history. (Yes, I know children take classes on Aboriginal History, but not annually).
6) It would be the only national holiday on which every ethnic majority and minority in Australia would be unified in showing cultural respect and appreciation. (Aborigines don’t celebrate Australia Day, Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, Christians don’t celebrate Eid al-Fitr, etc.)
7) Tripling the penalties for violent/destructive crimes would highly discourage such anti-social behavior and reinforce respect for Aboriginal History Day for both Aborigines people and Australians. It would minimize (and hopefully eliminate) acts of violent/destructive behavior from Aborigines who would feel entitled to behave that way, and from racist or disrespectful Australians who would be inclined to be violent or destructive toward the Aborigines.
8) Putting a 200% product value tax on alcohol on this day, which nearly triples the price, would discourage heavy drinking on this day for everyone. This would heavily discourage binge drinking by the Aborigines, which would again minimize violent or destructive from them. It would also make the day more significant to Australians, bringing it to their attention even more than just the holiday and preventing Australians from exploiting it as just another day to get drunk (which would defeat the purpose of making them more aware).
Imposing this tax would also minimize profit loss for alcohol distributors that would traditionally enjoy large profits during this time every year. At worst, it would merely motivate people to stock up on alcohol before Aboriginal History Day, yet still allow them to purchase alcohol on the day if they truly want to.
Australian’s and the Australian Government have nothing to lose by granting the Aborigines this national holiday, and so much to gain. Australians will get just as many days off work, they’ll enjoy better relations with the Aborigines, Australian society as a whole will suffer less violent and anti-social behavior from the Aborigines, and Australian industry will not be affected since New Years Day is presently a national holiday anyway.
Australia is a great country. But to be a great nation for the future of Aboriginal and Australian people alike, all nationalities and cultures within it must enjoy mutual respect, freedom, privileges, and appreciation. I truly believe that changing the date of Australia Day to January 1st, and establishing January 26th as Aboriginal History Day, would be a great step on the road in that direction.
– Michael Verdun