Why is such a divisive day celebrated?

‘Why is such a divisive day celebrated?’

Protesters at the Invasion Day march in Hobart. Picture: PATRICK BILLINGS

AS Australians celebrated nationhood, indigenous Tasmanians have spoken of the sadness the date bestows on their people.
For many Aboriginals January 26 isn’t a date for rejoicing but one signifying

“rape, murder and the taking of our children”.

More than 300 people yesterday marched through Hobart in solidarity with the message that the date for Australia Day must change.

On parliament’s lawns a series of Aboriginal activists implored Australians to tackle “the moral question” of why we choose this date to celebrate nationhood.

Prominent Tasmanian indigenous activist Michael Mansell said the only significance of January 26 was the arrival of white people in Australia making yesterday a “race based” celebration.

Mr Mansell said the protest wasn’t about condemning people who wanted to celebrate a national day but changing its date.

“Why is such a divisive day on our calendar celebrated every year,” he said.

For the last three years Flinders Council has held Australia Day on an alternative date.

Mr Mansell said this showed how quickly things can change and the council’s actions should be used as a template for local governments across Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Daisy Allan said watching people celebrate Australia Day made Indigenous people “weep bitterly and have heavy hearts.”

“Invasion day marks the day our lives were changed forever, ”she said.

The centre’s state secretary Trudy Maluga said changing the date was about respecting Australia’s’ first people.

“January 26 signifies to us the loss of everything that once was. It signifies the rape, the murder and the taking of our children,” she said.

“I think all Australians need to make this decision and put pressure on the leaders because it looks like a barbaric tradition when they are celebrating what this great country has to offer at the expense of its first people.”

Musician John Butler threw his support behind the cause telling the crowd the date was built on the “sands of denial”.

Premier Will Hodgman, who has pledged to “reset” the government’s relationship with Tasmanians Indigenous, said he understood their sensitivity about Australia Day.

“While we do not propose a change of date, this does not in any way lessen our genuine desire for reconciliation and positive outcomes,” he said.