Friday, 5 January 2024

Australia Day pride

Last month, at the end of 2023, my office received a flurry of emails from people about Australia Day.

The perennial ‘should the date change’ conversation usually comes up at this time of year, so this was a little earlier than usual.

They wanted to know my stance on Australia Day. It was a pretty straightforward question for me to answer: Australia Day is January 26.

And I’m not alone. I conducted Hinkler’s Biggest Survey last year – both online and a paper copy that was distributed to more than 80,000 homes and businesses.

One of the questions on the survey was: Do you support Australia Day being celebrated on 26 January?

The response from more than 3,100 constituents? An overwhelming 86 percent said ‘Yes’.

I wasn’t surprised, yet we keep hearing about attempts to take away this important day for Australians.

Late last year, the South Australian Government hit the headlines for its new public holiday bill which removed the titles of Anzac Day and Christmas Day and instead referred to the holidays as their calendar dates.

Understandably, veterans were outraged that Anzac Day was nowhere to be seen, just simply the date – April 25.

The South Australian Premier claimed it wasn’t a matter of politicising the public holidays and would

amend the bill when parliament resumes “to avoid any doubt”.

At the end of 2022, the Albanese Government removed the mandate for local councils to hold an Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony on Australia Day. They can now hold it three days before or after 26 January, or on the day.

This year, Bundaberg Regional Council will hold its Australia Day Citizenship Day ceremony on January 25.

If you asked anyone waiting to become a new citizen what would be the ideal day for their ceremony I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t want it to happen on Australia Day. In 2023, more than 19,000 people became citizens on Australia Day.

According to the National Australia Day Council, in 2023 there was an “unprecedented demand” for the community events grants program, with more than 700 events run by local councils and community groups around Australia supported by the program.

If this doesn’t show that people want to celebrate Australia Day and being Australian, then I don’t know what does.

I’m a proud Australian and I want people to stop talking down our great nation.

We should be celebrating our innovation, our resilience, our adaptability, and our mateship. And the day to do that? January 26.

Bundaberg Today column, publication date 05-01-2024

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