Feb 6 2023
Recently I grappled with the decision of whether The Personnel Group should observe the day as a designated public holiday or give our team the choice to observe a different day.
Like many people these days, I find myself confused about how to think and feel about Australia Day.
As a young person, growing up in the 1980’s I loved Australia Day. I remember it as a day of parades, and parties, bright colours, games, and sport. It was about celebrating things that I love about this country – fun, laughter, freedom, and diversity. It was backyard cricket, barbeques, great music, and mates.
I am still a proud Australian, and fundamentally believe that we have the best culture in the world, but for me, Australia Day has lost its lustre. I no longer feel capable of celebrating when the day causes so much pain to the traditional owners of our country.
These days – I am a change the date guy. Not because the date causes me any personal discomfort, but because of what it represents to others. Because for some Australians it represents a stolen culture, oppression, and exclusion. Because it divides rather than brings us together.
I don’t think I understood why the date was so divisive until reading Stan Grant’s exceptional book ‘Australia Day.’ Stan clearly explains the historic experience of Australia’s indigenous population, and why there is still so much lingering pain.
Equally, Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu gave me a stronger understanding of Australia’s history prior to European population, and a more accurate account of what colonisation looked like, than what was taught when I was at school.
These books gave me a more balanced view of Australia’s history and more than a small amount of shame about our actions in the past.
Recently I grappled with the decision of whether The Personnel Group should observe the day as a designated public holiday or give our team the choice to observe a different day. I ultimately chose to maintain the status quo but have admitted to our team in hindsight that I regret that decision.
We have a smart, ethically strong, moral team here, who should choose for themselves their approach to this date.
I have committed to the team that we will collectively develop our approach to this in the future.
My hope though is that this isn’t required. That we can find a way to bring together the disparate views in a way that celebrates all cultures. That we acknowledge a long, strong and significant indigenous history, a diverse, multicultural future, and a true appreciation of the failures and successes of our past. That we can find a date and a method of celebration that brings everyone to the table.