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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Australia Day « Previous | |Next »
January 26, 2005

Hmmmm. Some historical forgetting below, don't you think?

Sean Leahy

They also enacted another kind of ritual. Raising the flag on foreign soil with not an aboriginal figure in sight. The continent is a terra nullius.

That flag ritual signified an imperial land grab to protect British interests: to take possession of the eastern half of the 'Australian' continent to give Britain a strategic presence in the Pacific. A consequence of Britain acquiring a strategic presence in the Pacific was the destruction of the first people's society.

The cartoon's conception of history is the white settler one based on the terra nullius fiction. The key issue of Indigenous sovereignty is dodged by Leahy.

Should not the day of celebration also be a day of mourning or remembrance? A remembrance that there is still ‘unfinished business’ between settler and Indigenous peoples: the recognition of Indigenous people as prior sovereigns of the continent. Should not our celebrations of Australia Day be based on historical truth as rather than discredited national fictions?

Oh, I know what the objection to my pointing out the dodge. This is an emotional issue. It is all about pride, anger, shame, guilt and hate etc. Public policy has naught to do with emotion. It is about reason.

In response I would point out that the emotional language in Australian political discourse is very evident--eg.,conflict over Tampa, John Howard and Mark Latham. And we are dealing with nationality on Australia Day. Is not nationality emotionally based?

Update: 27 Jan
The issue is also raised by Paul Kidd. He says:

Commemorating as it does an act of colonisation rather than of real nationhood, it's a troublesome anniversary for many. On the left it is widely referred to, perhaps unhelpfully, as "Invasion Day", but even the aborigines have moved on from that position: "Survival Day" is the preferred moniker these days.

Ours is a troubled history. So why not have a day off work, a day of fun, surf and sand etc.,a day of griefing, and fly the Australian and aboriginal flags.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:46 PM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Australia Day:

» Australia Day from
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"Australians have a responsibility to acknowledge the first peoples of this land. It cannot be shirked, writes David Day. For some years now, Australia Day has seen commentators berating us for not making a greater celebration of the day that marke... [Read More]



An emotional issue indeed, and one that troubles many of us on the left. I posted something in the same vein on my site, and I've been wondering since, what would be the preconditions for Australia Day to be broadly accepted as a day of celebration by all Australians?

Are these conditions achievable, or should we (continue to) push for a less troublesome national day?


I reckon that Jan 26 is the wrong day. It is an empire day.

My judgement is thsat Australia Day should be the day the nation came into being, and the Australia people united under a federal nation state.

But we are stuck with 26 Jan. So it needs reinventing. We do see it as a fun fun fun-holiday in spite of the searing heat. I cannot see recognizing prior aboriginal sovereignty takes away the pleasure of having a day off work.

Don't know Leahy's work, but my first reaction to this cartoon was that he has hit the nail precisely on the head. Important things happened on 26/1/1788. Important consequences for the locals and the newcomers. Consequences that remain unresolved to this day.

But what do most of us think of 26 Jan?

It's a day off. Bit of a bugger, it being a Wednesday and all.

I think that is Leahy's message. Well, it was certainly the way I read it. Interpretation, perhaps, is in the eye of the beholder.


yours is a good reading. And probably better than mine.

I'd point out though that the present-your day off in midweek--is shaped by the past. We live our history in the present.

The cartoon has historical figures and settings.

How's that for an attempt to bring both of the interpretations into play with one another?