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There are many different opinions about Australia Day. Here are some answers to the most common questions you’ll hear or might have yourself.

1. What's the fuss about Australia Day?

▸ January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet and the start of British colonisation. Some people say this was the beginning of modern Australia, but for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it was the start of losing land, culture and family.

▸ Colonisation might have started over 230 years ago, but it continues to have a real impact today. That’s why some call it Invasion Day, Survival Day or Day of Mourning.

▸ January 26 is not a day of unity. Some people want to change the date to one that’s inclusive of and respectful to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. Some want to keep the date as it is, and some want to cancel it all together. It’s a debate with loud voices and many strong opinions.

▸ The question we need to be asking is how do we move forward together? There’s no simple answer; it’s going to take time, and people willing to listen to the perspectives of others. Understanding our shared story is a great place to start.

2. Why can’t they just get over it?

▸ Colonisation happened a long time ago, however, much of the injustice faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is recent; for example, the Stolen Generations occurred up until the 1970s. This means there are people, who are only in their 40s today, who were taken from their families as children.

▸ When you learn the full facts about what happened, you’ll understand the pain isn't something that’s easy to ‘just get over'. It affects many aspects of life for generations.

▸ This injustice can be seen today in the devastating statistics that impact many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across a range of life indicators. There’s a gap between the health and social outcomes and life-expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. For example, although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around 2% of the population, they constitute 27% of the prison population. [1] These statistics show that injustice isn’t something that only happened in the past. It’s continuing today, which makes it difficult to ‘just get over’.

▸ Simply forgetting and 'getting over it' isn’t how we move forward. What’s needed is empathy; understanding our shared story is a good place to start.

3. Should we change the date, save the date or cancel it all together?

▸ This question can be challenging, as there are many different perspectives from both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

▸ Saving the date means continuing to celebrate a date that’s painful for many people.

▸ ▸ Changing the date or cancelling the date doesn’t address the trauma and disadvantage that started at colonisation and still affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today.

▸ If we simply make a choice and move on, we miss the opportunity to understand where we’ve come from, where we are today and where we go from here.

▸ Learning more about our nation’s shared history between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians can help you answer this question for yourself.

4. Can't I just celebrate our beautiful country without feeling guilty?

▸ It’s ok to want to celebrate this country! There’s a lot to be proud of.

▸ But, it’s important to also acknowledge January 26 is a painful day for many Indigenous people, and make an effort to understand why.

▸ Feeling guilty about Australia’s history isn’t useful. We’re not responsible for past injustices. But our words and actions in the present can be a starting point to building a brighter future together.

▸ It's possible to celebrate Australia Day AND show solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. For example, you could:

      1. Share an acknowledgment on your Facebook profile
      2. Learn more about our history by watching SBS’s historical documentary First Australians
      3. Commit to having a conversation with someone about what the day really means for many Indigenous people
      4. Attend an event that celebrates Indigenous culture

5. What can I do?

▸ Learn more about the different perspectives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have about January 26. You could do this by reading Indigenous-led media such as the Koorie Mail, Stan Grant’s book Australia Day, or by watching NITV.

▸ Discover more about our shared story by exploring the Pride and Pain timeline.

▸ Share the Pride and Pain timeline on social media to help friends understand the issues around January 26.

▸ Listen to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

▸ Share what you’re learning by starting conversations with friends and family.

▸ Visit 10 things you can do on January 26 on our website for other ideas and suggestions for Australia Day activities.

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This Teacher Guide can help you plan a lesson about Australia Day

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Learn more about our shared history


Reference incarceration: Australian Law Reform Commission