Australia Day is on January 26. Here’s what you need to know about the history, significance, and controversy associated with this day.
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What is Australia Day?
Australia Day is a national public holiday celebrated on January 26. This observance aims to commemorate the anniversary of the British occupation of New South Wales in 1788.
Since that historical event, Sydney has commemorated January 26 under various names, such as Anniversary Day, First Landing Day, and Foundation Day. Over time, this evolved into Australia Day, as it’s known today, and was officially adopted by other states and territories in 1935.
The federal government began promoting Australia Day with the hopes of unifying Australia's increasingly diverse population, and it eventually became a national public holiday in 1994. Many use this day to reflect on the nation’s achievements and what makes people proud to be Australian.
3 things to know about Australia Day
1. It’s not a celebratory day for all
Australia Day isn't a celebratory occasion for all. The start of British colonization on January 26 marked a very painful period for Indigenous people in Australia, characterized by conflict, violence, and trauma.
As a result of this painful history, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians feel that January 26 isn’t an appropriate time to celebrate as a nation and have asked to move Australia Day to another date.
2. The effects of colonization are still palpable
Many assume that the negative effects of colonization disappear the further away we get from the historical event. However, the negative effects of colonization continue to impact the lives of many Indigenous Australians today. This often takes the form of:
- Intergenerational trauma
- Health disparities
- Disconnection from land, culture, and language
- Social discrimination
3. There are ongoing reconciliation efforts
While there hasn't been an official date change to Australia Day, ongoing reconciliation efforts are being led by the government and nonprofit organizations like Reconciliation Australia. Many public and private entities are refraining from referring to January 26 as Australia Day on their own.
While Australia Day remains one of the main areas of focus for reconciliation, the broader goal is to strengthen relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous peoples.
How we’re approaching Australia Day as a company
Given the complex history surrounding Australia Day, how do we approach the day as an organization? To be honest, there’s no easy answer to this question.
On the one hand, we're proud to be an Australian company with Australian employees and want to celebrate our achievements as a nation. But we also recognize the incredible hardships endured by Indigenous people and don't want to contribute to the pain experienced by this community. We also acknowledge that changing the date won't change or reverse the harmful effects of colonization.
Here’s what we’re doing to balance these two sides on Australia Day:
- [Action 1]
- [Action 2]
- [Action 3]
We also want to offer general recommendations on how we can all respectfully navigate Australia Day as an organization:
- Engage in respectful conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors about the different perspectives around Australia Day.
- Be open to hearing about what Australia Day means to different people.
- Respect the wishes of colleagues who don’t want to participate in any Australia Day-related activities or events.
- Learn about the history of Australia Day and the ongoing impact to Indigenous peoples.
- Do not isolate, pressure, or discriminate against people who share a different view of Australia Day from you.