Keep Australia Day, and move to a date we can all celebrate

Australia should move Australia Day to a date that is inclusive of all Australians and recognises the survival and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Amnesty International said today, as it released its first position statement on the issue.

“Australia Day should be a day when everyone can come together, to celebrate our unique, beautiful and diverse country,” said Rodney Dillon, Palawa man from Tasmania and Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Advisor.

“We want to keep Australia Day, and move the date to respect human rights for all, bring people together and mature as a nation. This issue should not be about politics or wedging people against one another. We want to make the day better, by moving it to an inclusive date when we can all celebrate together.”

Tammy Solonec, Nigena woman from W.A. and Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia, said:

“But, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 26 January marks the colonisation of this country.

“Our history didn’t begin on 26 January 1788; it began over 65,000 years ago – and we’re still making it now. Let’s celebrate the survival and resilience of the oldest living culture in the world and change the date.”

“We have a chance to right wrongs. There are 364 other dates in the year when we can celebrate our country on a date that unites us, not divides us.”

“Let’s keep the day and move the date.”

Amnesty International’s position statement calls for the Federal Government to consult with the community to choose a new date for Australia Day so it can be celebrated by all.

The position statement is as follows:

The anniversary of British colonisation of Australia on the 26th January has been formally marked as Australia Day since 1994, but celebrations and protests on that date go back to the 1800s.

Since colonisation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been subjected to violence including through the frontier wars and government policies that created harm including the removal of children, the removal of people from their ancestral lands, slavery and the denial of self-determination.

The 26th January is and will always be an important day for Australia – but there are better days to celebrate this nation. In solidarity with the call of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and groups, Amnesty International Australia supports Australia Day being held on a day other than 26 January so that all Australians can celebrate together.

Amnesty International calls on the Australian Government to start a consultation process to move towards a new date for Australia Day – one which is inclusive of all Australians and recognises the survival and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Amnesty International also allows its staff to work on 26 January and take off the public holiday another day, in solidarity with Indigenous people. As a show of support, many of the staff who chose to work on 26 January last year attended Survival Day events.

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