Australia Day debates normally fall into two main categories of chat - bogan behaviour or invasion day? The fact that we have these issues at all seems to me that it is not a true celebration of Australia? And let’s be frank, looking at what happens elsewhere in the world, we are all pretty bloody lucky to live here and we should all be celebrating that fact?
Now, this is something that has been floating in my head since I was a kid, asking my Grandma about Australia Day and of course getting the “26 Jan was commemoration of the first European settlement at Port Jackson in Sydney”, the kicker is the extra from Grandma, as even though my family had been here for generations, Grandma was still really anti-British, as quite a few of Irish Catholic descent are. Just as Aboriginals think of Australia Day as Invasion Day (which is a fair call), my Grandma considered it “Dumping Day” as obviously her ancestors didn’t have much bloody choice in it either? Hence she considered it a pompous British Celebration, not Australian.
I also grew up on the Southside of Brisbane, my school would have been almost 50/50 kids of Irish Catholic descent (garden variety Catholic School) and kids of immigrants, so again, the actual date of the British deciding this was a good date to raise a flag & claim it as their own really does not resonate with them?
One thing though all these groups have in common is that they have been persecuted. The Aboriginal persecution is well documented, so is the Irish under British rule, and of course over the years, most immigrants who have arrived here have come from war-torn nations and undemocratic nations. The vast majority of this nation actually have a lot more in common than they think? So my thinking is that Australia Day should be a day that we are all included putting that past commonality we all share behind us?
When discussing the change of date, many point to Federation (1 January 1901) as a good day. Ok, sort of makes sense except, well, we are Australian & that is New Year’s day, already a public Holiday, hello... We are the land of the long weekend? Even with that date, considering the “Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902” in 1901 itself, not all women in this country could vote and Aboriginals were definitely in no-man’s land, so yes it was lovely that all the states decided to become one happy family, it is still not really an inclusive date, as I stated before, the best thing about this nation is that is democratic, we all have an opportunity to have a say in the future of this nation, should we choose to get off our butts & vote, BUT you have to have the right & opportunity to have that vote?
So pretty much when it comes to Aboriginals having a vote, this has come & gone over the years, it is very confusing and all the changes are beyond me . The AEC has a simple wrap up here “Indigenous Australians and the vote”. The sentence that stands out to me on this page is as follows:
“The Menzies Liberal and Country Party government gave the Commonwealth vote to all Aborigines in 1962. Western Australia gave them State votes in the same year. Queensland followed in 1965. With that, all Aborigines had full and equal rights.”
I remember learning about Queensland stuffing around on this in High School. I am positive it was not part of the curriculm just one of those tangents of conversation when you have one of those really great teachers who engage you in a subject and Mrs Walsh was one of those. Even now at the age of 45 I still remember our class being shocked that it was not until 1965 that Queensland allowed Aboriginals to vote, hell, some of the kids in my class were aboriginal & they didn’t know that. Considering most of us were born in 1968 it was a real wake up call as we always thought that sort of ‘unfair’ stuff was back in the dark ages, not within a few years of us being born?
So obviously that has stuck with me. So ‘kid logic’ says to me (yes that is what I was accused of having at one BBQ long ago – “don’t you know it is more complicated than that” UGH) that the very first time in this nation that every single Australian, regardless of colour, religion or gender, regardless of being born here or not, every single citizen could vote in a Federal election should be the date we celebrate? By my reckoning that would be 26 November 1966? So 26 November should be Australia Day, a day that we all had a say with our vote in the future of Australia?
To mention some of the complications... There is also the 1967 referendum that many refer to, but I don’t consider that an important democratic date. I know it is still a big deal in the minds of many who were around at that time, but when it all boils down it, the Government decided they would include Aboriginals in a ‘head-count’? That might help with funding in particular areas, but really is not about the Aboriginal people themselves having a vote or say in their future as Australian’s?
Obviously I could be wrong on those dates, I am not an electoral historian, the only date I was sure of was the Queensland date. Now many say it should be 1962 as that was when they amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act and Aboriginals could vote in Federal elections, but I don’t really think that counts if the likes of Queensland are still being pricks about the whole vote thing & not letting you vote in their State elections? To truly be having a say, you need to be voting at both levels of Government, hence my picking the 1966 date...
As old mate at the BBQ decades ago said to me, PFFT! "Kid Logic" but what is wrong with that? Kids are not the silly, often how they get from A to B makes perfect sense, OK sometimes it is way off base but... maybe we should stop over-complicating everything? We all want a day we can ALL celebrate, so my choice is to commemorate the first day we could all vote & have a say, as that was the day we were ALL Australian?
Hopefully some smart cookie like Peter Brent who is an expert with this stuff will look at as this and find a more inclusive date hint hint (we know from twitter he is thinking about it). But hey, that is what my kid logic comes up with and don't forget, there is the added bonus that 26 November is still summer so good time for a public holiday? What do you think?
Considering the impact of Queensland with Aboriginal Voting rights this is a good resource "Fact sheet: voting rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland"
PS. While we are discussing ALL voting, might be good to keep in mind what Queensland (always bloody Queensland...) are looking at ‘changing’, making it harder for not only Aboriginals, but the elderly & young too for voting :(
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