Australian national day and protests to change the date

Australia national day is contentious as some consider it Invasion Day. A majority of Australians seems willing to keep it as is.

Sydney Opera House for Australia's national day
Sydney Opera House at dawn on January 26, 2022 | © MPX_Trader, Twitter

January 26 is Australia’s national day but thousands protested against the mistreatment of Indigenous people across Australia on Wednesday.

The date celebrates the birth of modern Australia when the British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788 to start a penal colony. British considered the land unoccupied despite the presence of native Australians.

But for many Indigenous Australians the date, formerly known as “Foundation Day”, is rather referred to as “Invasion Day“.

Many protestors across cities dressed in black to mourn the day and showed signs asking to change the date.

A monument depicting Captain James Cook, who arrived in the Pacific 252 years ago triggering British colonization of the region, was doused in red paint overnight in Melbourne.

Australia announced a day before the public holiday that it bought the copyright of the Aboriginal flag, a national flag since 1995, to end a commercial dispute. The Australian and Aboriginal flags were raised side by side on January 26.

Although some events were canceled because of the Omicron variant, celebrations this year took place across the country.

In Sydney, the sails of the Opera House displayed first Nations projections by Pitjantjara artist David Miller. The Pitjantjatjara are an Aboriginal people of the Central Australian desert.

In the Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney’s newest Harbour foreshore park, the national anthem was sung in iora, the traditional language of Sydney.

The Australian population rather seems willing to keep the current national day. This week, a poll by the market research company Roy Morgan showed nearly two-thirds of Australians considered that “Australia Day” should be on January 26. The other third thinks of it as “Invasion Day”.

But the issue also seems to strike a chord beyond Indigenous Australians. There are approximately 750,000 Aboriginal Australians in a population of 26 million Australians, or 3% of the population.

And overall, they live in poorer economic and social conditions than Australia’s average.

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