It was only last week that I learnt that Australia Day has only been celebrated on January 26th since 1994. The public holiday started when I was too young to have any concept of dates and months, let alone public holidays and why they’re there.
The discovery left me quite shocked. I’d always thought it had been celebrated for many decades, and that the date had been picked well before people had any idea about cultural sensitivity. But, no, it was just 1994 — a mere 27 years ago.
In school, we were taught the history of the First Fleet, and Captain Arthur Phillip, and how the British came to Australia. It seemed like there was some logic behind choosing January 26th for Australia Day. But, of course, there’s only so much we are taught when we are really young.
It was probably not until high school that I started learning about the genocide and dispossession. The history of Australia is nothing short of barbaric, and it seems cruel to celebrate the anniversary of when it all started.
Every year for the last however many years (I’m not sure exactly how many), there have been protests to “change the date”. It is a day of mourning for indigenous Australians, not a day of celebration. And it always seemed strange to me that it was so hard to change the date, but it’s even more strange now that I know how young this public holiday is.
Astounded by my own ignorance, I did some browsing of the internet to see what else I didn’t know. I found this article, which I think is a good summary of essential information: https://clothingthegap.com.au/blogs/blogs/8things-you-need-to-know-about-january-26
Worth a read, especially for anyone who’s got the day off because of the public holiday.