Aboriginal IssuesNews

Three-day proposal for Australia Day commemorations

Wesley Enoch from the Noonuccal Nuugi people of Stradbroke Island believes that the date of Australia Day should not change, but that the way it is marked should be.

Photo: Sydney Festival Caption: “ALWAYS”, a 5.5-metre high, 28-metre long sculpture on the Barangaroo headland, was created by Indigenous artist Jacob Nash. The installation is on display during Sydney Festival and references the phrase “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”.

In an interview with Broadsheet Sydney Mr Enoch said: “January 26 falls within the Sydney Festival dates, so as an Aboriginal man [and Director of Sydney Festival 2017-2019] I need to have a response to it. What is the history of this day? What are the rituals? How did it come together? Maybe that’s the role the Sydney Festival could play – find different rituals of commemorating, rather than celebrating.”


Elsewhere he has likened the significance of the day and the tensions within it to Anzac Day, suggesting that just as it’s possible to move from a solemn dawn service to participating or viewing the march and then spending the afternoon with mates at the pub, there are different parts of Australia’s history that should be acknowledged around January 26.


In his ideal world, commemoration rituals would extend from January 25 to 27 with an annual three-day national holiday. “There’s the fact that we are the longest-continuing culture on earth; there’s the British colonial project and the institutions we’ve inherited from that; and the fact that we’re the most successful multi-ethnic, multicultural nation on earth. There’s no Australian who isn’t touched by those three things any time they walk down the street, yet we often feel they’re in competition when they’re not.”


New rituals could be developed for each of the three days. January 25, the day before Governor Phillip raised the flag in 1788 at Warrane (Sydney Cove), could be devoted to acknowledgement of the first peoples of the land. January 26 “is when the British colonial project started” and could therefore celebrate the growth of the country we now know as Australia, and January 27 could conclude the commemoration in celebrating the multicultural nation we’ve become.

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