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To Australia Day or not to Australia Day?

For some, the 26th of January is an excuse to get overly intoxicated and eat one too many burnt sausages amongst friends. For others, it passes without any fanfare, save for sore eyes from binge watching Game of Thrones. But for many, the day is fraught with anger, mourning and ongoing disappointment that the government will not move the date to one which does not signify the start of a brutal suppression.

Wherever you may sit on the scale, the debate about our National Day is as heated and relevant as ever. In such a divisive climate – how should Australian workplaces respond? Here are a few ideas inspired by NFP organisation Australians Together:

– Celebrate as you normally would (burnt sausages in full force), but have an open discussion about the meaning of Australia Day. Be respectful and open to different perspectives. Open communication can teach, inspire and change.

– Explore the local area your business operates in, and educate your team about its origins.

– Discover more about Australian history, and listen to the stories of Indigenous Australians, perhaps through documentaries such as SBS’ First Australians.

– Attend a local event to show support for Indigenous Australians.

More recently, social media has also provided a new medium for those promoting protest campaigns and voicing their anger. This year, Triple J’s annual The Hottest 100 music countdown will also be moved to the 27th of January for the first time, after the station gathered perspectives from members of the public, the music industry, and Indigenous groups regarding a change of date. Results highlighted that a majority of voters (60%) supported moving the countdown to a different day, with the station complying in order for it to “be an event that everyone can enjoy together”.

On the other side of the fence are those who believe a date change is a ridiculous concept, including Mark Latham. The former Australian Labor Party leader has even launched a controversial ‘Save Australia Day’ campaign.

Amongst these opinions are those who remain ignorant about Australia Day’s darker historic significance. A recent national survey conducted by The Australian Institute has highlighted this, withonly 38% of respondents choosing the correct answer to the question ‘What Australian historical event occurred on 26 January?’ amongst a list of 11 options.

Ultimately, Australia Day should be about unity and celebrating all that is great about our nation, whilst acknowledging the things we can improve. Each of us has the responsibility to listen, get informed and promote acceptance within our shared society. However you choose to spend your day, make sure it is with respect and understanding.