Why young Australians are avoiding their national holiday on Australia Day

a young lady sporting an Australian flag headband

A few years ago, Kaitlyn would have been celebrating Australia Day like millions of other people, decked out in regalia with a flag on it, poolside with a beer in her hand.

According to the 24-year-old, "I used to host parties... I used to be really into it.".

However, Kaitlyn is currently a part of a sizable group of young Australians and others who are avoiding the national holiday.

The date, 26 January, commemorates the First Fleet's arrival in 1788, which marked the start of the colonization era.

It was also the start of the oppression of Indigenous people, who were killed, stripped of their lands, and alienated from their culture.

Some claim that, in spite of its past, Australia has become what it is today, and that Australia Day is an occasion to celebrate that. However, according to some, it is a day of mourning, and celebrating it is hurtful and offensive.

Kaitlyn, who asked that her last name not be used, claims that she never learned that perspective in school in Queensland. But as the topic became more well-known in recent years, she started looking for more details.

And as she discovered more, she grew more uneasy about the notion of observing the day.

Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn claims that she now has a better understanding of why many people find the day to be painful.

Since she stopped doing so many years ago, Kaitlyn won't be fully observing Australia Day on Thursday. The IT employee has asked her manager to work rather than take another day off.

As much as the next guy, I enjoy day drinking. And I love this country and I'm proud to be an Australian, so I understand why people want to celebrate it by donning tacky tattoos. The problem is that many people associate hurt and pain with that particular date. ".

In Australia, a movement to "change the date" has gained momentum. Numerous well-known people have argued for a different date, including Jeremy Rockliff, the premier of Tasmania, Chris Hemsworth, and Jason Gillespie, a pioneering Indigenous cricket player.

Many councils have switched the dates of their citizenship ceremonies from the customary 26 January date. This year's Australia Day parade was canceled by the Victorian state government. More employers are allowing workers the choice to work and take another day off in place of vacation, including Telstra and supermarket behemoth Woolworths. Kmart, a retailer, has stopped carrying Australia Day memorabilia.

Additionally, annual "Invasion Day" or "Survival Day" demonstrations are becoming more common.

According to recent surveys, about a third of Australians are in favor of changing the date, and fewer people are celebrating on January 26 each year. Support for moving Australia Day is even higher among people under 35, at about 50%.

An andquot;Invasion Day" rally in Sydney last year
Sydney's "Invasion Day" rally from the previous year.

From 2013 until last year, Australia's previous conservative government consistently rejected requests to change the date.

Although he has relaxed the rules that required councils and public service employees to observe the day, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese claims his Labor government has no plans to move it either.

Jarrah Brailey, 24, is dissatisfied with the Australian politicians' response. So a few years ago, the owner of the small business decided to simply alter the date herself.

On January 26, her team works in support of Aboriginal people who, like her two half-brothers, feel left out of a day meant to bring Australia together.

It only required sending a message to her team to inform them, she claims, and it cost absolutely nothing.

She claims that her ten employees not only agree with the choice but also are proud of it.

Since people aren't overly attached to the day's historical significance, she thinks that actually changing the date on a national scale could be simple as well.

She claims, "We believe we are celebrating our country, but that could be done any day of the year. Why does it have to happen on that particular day?

Jarrah Brailey and her team
Ms. Brailey (center) and a few of her coworkers.

However, other young Australians, like Dimitry Chugg-Palmer, adore Australia Day.

The 27-year-old tells the BBC that there are many things to be thankful for, such as the fact that we live in a free nation, enjoy great wealth and prosperity, and are incredibly welcoming and diverse.

"That doesn't mean denying our past. It's an opportunity to reflect and acknowledge that we've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. ".

Despite acknowledging that the day causes pain for many Indigenous Australians, Mr. Chugg-Palmer, president of the Liberals' youth wing in Australia, says he hasn't yet heard a compelling case for changing it.

"January 26th is a logical starting point for modern Australia... I haven't seen a date proposed that is [a] more logical date for Australia Day. ".

Many young Australians, in Mr. Chugg-Palmer's opinion, concur with him but are "apprehensive" about celebrating because of the "noise" surrounding the event.

Indigenous people do not always agree with changing the date. Some contend that non-Native Australians can make more significant contributions to First Nations people. Others claim that changing the date covers up past wrongs.

Isaiah Firebrace, an activist and performer from the Aboriginal community, says he won't participate in any Australia Day festivities but he also won't abstain.

The 23-year-old wants the date to be changed because, in his words, it would be inappropriate to observe a national holiday to commemorate the start of a genocide.

However, as he has done for a number of years, he will perform at the Australia Day concert in Sydney.

The 2017 Australian representative for the Eurovision Song Contest, Mr. Firebrace, stated, "I'm black and proud and... on this day [which symbolizes] basically getting rid of First Nations people, I want to show that we're still here, and still strong.".

Isaiah Firebrace performs in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge
An earlier Australia Day concert featured Isaiah Firebrace.

But he knows that going on stage will be unpopular, so it's a difficult choice.

It's likely that people will ask, "Why is he doing that? " or "He's being ignorant about it. However, I am aware of my own role in the situation; after all, not everyone will be content. ".

Despite his suspicions that it will take a generation, Mr. Firebrace is encouraged by the growing momentum for change.

The problem is still so poorly understood by so many Australians, he claims. Many Australians take offense easily; I suppose they feel as though something is being taken away from them.

Many people claim that "We didn't do that to you guys. It happened a very long time ago. Why should we be forced to alter because of something we did not contribute to? '".

It comes down to what Australia is known for, which is mateship... [and] looking out for each other, Mr. Firebrace said when asked how he would sum it up for them.

It's kind of ironic that Australia adheres to these principles but is unable to uphold them for its own Black population.

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