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British ties perpetuate a blind focus on one group
The ongoing debate around the date of Australia Day highlights the importance of Australia becoming a republic. Whether we can admit it or not, January 26 was chosen to celebrate the arrival of white British colonists and the beginning of white Australia. While we remain tethered to Britain under a constitutional monarchy, we cannot truly examine an Australian national identity that celebrates a day for all its citizens.
Symbolism matters, and our current date and constitutional ties to Britain perpetuate a blind focus on the significance of one section of Australian society. This makes it harder for our First Nations people, and all who have come to these shores since, to recognise their contributions and feel acknowledged. What better way to reach a consensus for the date of Australia Day than by selecting the day that this country officially becomes a modern, independent republic.
Finally, we would have a national day of celebration that resonates with all who live here.
Roan Plotz, Preston
An uncontroversial interim date
The suggestion by Ken Rivett (Letters, 25/1) that Australia should celebrate its national day on March 3 is a good one.
It could also be an uncontroversial date until Australia becomes a republic, in which case the date of the referendum on which this is voted would be a logical choice.
Juliet Flesch, Kew
A way to show you disagree
Perhaps people who disagree with January 26 being Australia Day because for our First Nations people it marks a day of invasion and the beginnings of dispossession and massacres should hang a black flag, wreath or other such symbol on their front gate or front door to show their desire for a better chosen day.
It would certainly send a clear message to Canberra.
Robyn Westwood, Heidelberg Heights
A deep sense of shame at the lasting injustices
Although I’m only a third-generation Australian, genealogically speaking, whose forebears were on the other side of the world while the British Empire claimed this country, I retain a deep sense of shame at the lasting injustices carried out against our First Nations people.
Some would consider the concept of collective guilt illogical, but I would doubtless feel the same if I were a more recent citizen of the Americas, South Africa, India, the East Indies, or other places colonised by European powers without regard to, and with violence against, the original inhabitants. We cannot move forward as a nation without acknowledging past wrongs and actively seeking to address them.
As long as we continue to celebrate Australia Day as the birth of the nation, this contentious issue will remain a source of division and will not engender the sense of unity that a national holiday should.
Vikki O’Neill, Ashburton
January 26 is the worst possible day
The issue is simple. We would like a day on which to celebrate what unites Australians, including mateship, inclusivity and the expectation of a fair go.
The day chosen for this is the worst possible in the whole calendar, the day most likely to offend and injure those from whose loss the rest of us built our gain. The day is about celebrating an idea, not an event. There can be no genuine argument to stick with January 26 beyond reluctance to change; as well as representing dispossession of First Nations people, it disrupts the week leading to the return to school and often leads to loss of revenue for businesses (if it falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, workers often take off the adjacent Monday or Friday).
We have the whole calendar to choose from: I suggest the second Friday in August. It is half way through the holiday-free stretch of the school third term and would offend no one.
Barbara Boxhall, Glen Iris
Release this family
It was so heartening to see asylum seekers released into the community last week. Now, what about releasing Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa back to their home and adoptive community in Biloela?
Their release could put the millions of dollars currently spent holding them in captivity back into the economy to help kick-start recovery from the coronavirus devastation. Win-win.
Brenda McKinty, Oakleigh East
So it’s the cost of detaining refugees that has finally convinced Peter Dutton that they should be released into the community. What an astonishing epiphany.
Your editorial (″Release the rest of the detained refugees″, The Age, 23/1), is right to describe this response as ″remarkably trite″ and his justification as ″spurious″.
In his relentless attempt to demonise them, Mr Dutton continues to describe these refugees as ″illegal maritime arrivals″ when, according to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, there is nothing illegal about seeking refuge by boat or any other means. It is the callous and cruel disregard for the welfare of these men over many, many years by the federal government that has rightly brought upon us local and international shame and condemnation.
It is Peter Dutton’s mercenary attitude that puts the costs of detaining these men above the care or compassion they rightly deserve that is so unconscionable.
Nick Toovey, Beaumaris
Hitting a raw nerve
Ross Gittins’ accurate analysis (″PM’s trust, respect for public servants vital for economy″, Business, 25/1) hits a raw nerve for anyone who has observed the decline of the public sector from inside or outside over the past 40-odd years.
The whole context has changed: the idea of ″public″ service has been replaced by ″government″ or ″personal″ service, designed to bolster those in power at the expense of others. No wonder there’s no trust, no credibility, no continuity, no impartial professional advice.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Public servants can set an example of principled leadership and integrity, even in a political policy vacuum, and the public they serve can recognise and appreciate good service.
The public sector must be encouraged to participate in open discussion of government proposals, without being forever silenced and ignored; it is the only way to harness the necessary skills and experience to actually serve the public.
Jenifer Nicholls, Armadale
This is no substitute …
The Australian government signing an agreement to commit to adaptation to climate change when they won’t commit to proper action to minimise the level of global warming is like signing up to deal with the public health crisis of obesity by committing to provide larger clothes while making sure that sugary drinks are provided free in every school (″Australia to support climate resilience strategy″, The Age, 25/1).
We need our government to properly commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to reduce climate change, not to trumpet that they will take action to adapt to climate change. Adaptation without reduction will be much more expensive than reduction and will not stop catastrophic impacts of unchecked climate change.
Graham Phelps, Ocean Grove
… for real action
Speedy resilience and adaptation are essential in helping tackle the climate crisis. And it is important that politicians such as Environment Minister Sussan Ley can agree on this.
But it is equally essential that all countries must also speedily reduce the main causes (fossil fuel emissions and land clearing) of the crisis. Otherwise, climate extremes will continue worsening way beyond any hope of life (including humans) adapting.
This is the very hard truth that a minority of the Morrison government still refuse to understand, accept and act on.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood
A selective reading
On the ABC news on Sunday night Margaret Court claimed she only teaches the Bible, and her critics should move on. I would like to put to her, does she teach the whole Bible, or if not, how does she choose which parts to teach?
For example, does she teach: Leviticus 25:44, which states that people may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are from neighbouring nations (Exodus 21:7 also sanctions slavery); or the sacrifice of cattle to please the Lord (Leviticus 1:9); or a person working on the Sabbath be put to death (Exodus 35:2)?
Clearly we have moved on from these ″teachings″, and it’s time Ms Court moved on to more enlightened views on gender diversity.
Ian Gardner, Northcote
We have changed
Yes (″Diminished as a people″, Letters, 25/1), the LGBTQI+ community may be a minority group in their numbers compared to heterosexuals but I believe the majority of Australians now accept the diversity of sexuality that has always existed in our country.
We are only diminished by not respecting other people’s sexuality.
In 2013 it was made unlawful in Australia to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Robin Jensen, Castlemaine
A person of her time
Margaret Court is a person of her upbringing and time and reminds us of what were mainstream Australian public views and values not so long ago.
Perhaps that reminder is part of the reason for the excessive righteousness of her critics. Had she as a young woman publicly adopted the views that are now required of her, then she would have been also attacked, but probably less intensely.
I’m not attracted to her beliefs; neither am I attracted to the unfeeling, shrill attacks on a person, now aged, who was in her time a national hero.
Adam Thomson, Collingwood
I spent an hour or so consuming Saturday’s Age (23/1): Trump and his cult followers, Joe Biden (hallelujah), refugees, climate change, Invasion Day/Australia Day, the virus and its ramifications, Australia/China relations, the downfall of Aussie cricket, the effects of concussion on the brains of our AFL players, and throw in the odd letter and Comment from regular contributors. Sadness started creeping in. I needed a break.
Several hours later I returned to my favourite section of the paper, Spectrum. J.S. Bach’s The Art of the Fugue had been put into the CD player, and I turned to page two and the article by Anson Cameron: ″The last goodbye″.
If ever there was a recipe for allowing the tears to flow – and Bach will certainly help conjure up those tears – this article did just that. Not tears of sadness, but, somehow, cleansing tears.
For five minutes, as I read Anson’s words about the imminent death of his friend, the worries of the world had been left behind. All that mattered were these two people and their interaction, and it reminded me to try and be the best person I can possibly be before my own inevitable death.
A wonderful article.
Jan Courtin, Albert Park
Something to aim for
On May 9, 1901 we had a new Federal Parliament. May 9, 1927 the old Parliament House was opened. May 9, 1988 the new Parliament House was opened. Surely these are significant dates for Australians.
Perhaps a near-future May 9 will be called Republic Day. January 26? Treaty Day? Now that’s something to aim for.
Tom Upton, Bendigo
This annual fuss …
I am utterly weary of the annual fuss made over Australia Day – both its uninspiring celebrations and the recurring painful debate over January 26.
Please let’s just change the date to January 1 and call that either Australia Day or Federation Day. Then our New Year’s Eve fireworks can do double duty, heralding both the new year and the anniversary of Australia’s nationhood.
Any slight awkwardness as to public holidays is easily resolved. Our states and territories can continue to mark their own proclamation dates. And no single state (guess which?) will any longer hog the limelight on this country’s national day.
Anthea Hyslop, Eltham
… is not helpful
It’s not helpful on any issue for discussion to go round and round ad infinitum.
Australia Day is the latest. Because it is in the major school holidays, it has lost its significance for two reasons – many families are not in their local communities, and students are not taught about it. But we need a day to celebrate both the First Nations people and all the cultures who have called Australia home for the last 240 years.
The government should choose a date when the weather is pleasant across Australia, and I suggest March 1 would be ideal.
First Nations people should be included everywhere and local communities encouraged to celebrate what is appropriate for their place and time.
Please make a decision and move on from this endless discussion.
Jennifer Monger, Benalla
We change with the times
Given thousands of Australians also march on or commemorate January 26 as Invasion Day, by what stretch of the imagination is it fair or relevant for government to browbeat the ABC for using both terms on its website?
Language and community attitudes change, and just because something has an official name, common or alternative usage also has to be acknowledge and respected. (It’s why we update dictionaries.)
Especially so in this case, because we all know – or should know by now – that celebrating this day has a different impact on many of our Indigenous fellow citizens.
Ernest Raetz, Northcote
AND ANOTHER THING
Scott Morrison’s new name for January 26: ″Not a Flash Day Day″. Fixes everything, methinks.
Mark Mocicka, St Kilda East
The result for the Australia Day survey should have been reported as ″48 per cent of Australians have no empathy for our Indigenous people″.
Denis Liubinas, Blairgowrie
Bill Shorten is clearly positioning himself for another crack at the Labor leadership; whether he achieves this or not is immaterial because as far as the electorate is concerned, there ″ain’t much difference″ between the government we’ve got and what we could have.
Jaroslaw Kotiw, Strathfieldsaye
Paul Fletcher, this is not Russia. The ABC is meant to be independent of the government.
Lou Ferrari, Richmond
Didn’t we just have an election? Seems like all we talk about is when the next election may be. Time for fixed four-year terms.
Dean Virgin, Strathmore
The next time you’re in town, Margaret Court, come and visit some of the transgender and homosexual kids I teach. You’ll learn so much from them about kindness, forgiveness and decency.
Andrew Dowling, Torquay
I don’t want to spoil the party, but Timothy 2:12 says quite clearly that women can’t have authority over men, so Margaret Court’s ministry is against the teachings of the Bible and she’ll have to step aside. Sorry, Margaret.
Anne Cooper, Stanmore, NSW
I look forward to a time when the highest honours are awarded to unpaid community volunteers.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick
It would be more effective to use some form of ″conversion therapy″ to treat bigotry, which is a learnt behaviour, rather than sexual orientation, which is not.
Chris Wilson, Poowong
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