Australia Day is a national holiday in this small continent. It is celebrated on January 26 every year. The date marks Australia’s many great achievements, including its multicultural history to its current feats of science and technology. It’s an opportunity for Aussies (and everyone who feels that way) to gather and celebrate their national holiday and culture.
This day is rooted in the confederacy of Australia and honours its connection with Great Britain. For decades, that was a long and complicated relationship. The Crown had some controversial decisions that left a deep mark in the history of this continent. The outcomes of some of them are still being felt today.
January 26 is also when everyone living in The Land Down Under sums up their impressions and appreciate the benefits of being an Aussie. Many are grateful for the opportunity to be an Australian and live in this wonderful country of unique and rich culture. Various celebrations, formal ceremonies, and time spent with dear people are just some ways to mark Australia Day.
But, did you hear of Invasion or Mourning Day? Maybe a Survival Day? These are all synonyms used for this date, and they don’t have a good connotation. If you check Australia Day resources, you’ll see these terms prevail among the Aboriginal population and those who don’t have a nice opinion of the holiday celebrated on January 26.
Historical Facts You Should Know
Although the official history of Australia covers the period of colonization, this continent has been known since before. Before the arrival of the English, these shores were explored by Dutch sailors in the seventeenth century.
In fact, these explorers discovered Australian land by accident when the ships veered off course. It was then that this continent was actually mapped for the first time. The first to actually ‘conquer’ this country was James Cook in 1770.
This British adventurer and navigator declared Australia a British colony. That was great news for the Crown, as the British authorities were looking for new territories to send prisoners. Jails in Britain were overcrowded, so sending the convicts overseas was one way to cut the criminal. Also, the colonies got cheap labour, which sped up their progress.
This practice began about ten years later. The eight ships full of prisoners arrived in Australia in 1788, in mid-January. For them, it was an opportunity to start a new life from scratch. The population grew rapidly, and the Crown rewarded the merits of the settlers with the land. The young colony flourished.
Settlement or Invasion
Most nations in Australia are celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of the first settlers on this land. But this holiday has another side. On this day, Aboriginal people remember the victims, the land, the dignity, and everything that has been taken away from them since the first colonists came.
The English captain Arthur Philip first unfolded the flag of the British Empire in one of the inaccessible bays of today’s Sydney on January 26, 1788. After more than two centuries, that causes a division among modern Australians.
Many controversies have developed around this date because the story of the first settlement has two sides. On one are the colonists, and on the other the ingenious Australians, the Aboriginal people. Here are some amazing facts you should know about these people.
Why Aboriginal People Mourn This Day?
While the first arrival on the new mainland was perceived as a chance for development and economic prosperity, the natives saw the settlers as a threat. And they were right. English brought many benefits to the Australian mainland. But they also brought the issues and vices of the modern world.
The settlers began persecuting and oppressing the natives. Due to their dark skin and an unknown language, they considered Aboriginal an inferior race. English took their land and forcibly assimilated younger people and kids. Natives who offered the greatest resistance ended up as slaves or killed. As you can see, these are the main reasons why indigenous people in Australia don’t want to glorify January 26.
What causes many controversies is how different nations view the date that marks the arrival of the first settlers. Nowadays, there is more and more talk that another date would be more appropriate. With the arrival of the English immigrants in the 18th century, the great suffering of Aboriginal people began.
The Search for a National Holiday
Since the first settlers arrived at the territory of New South Wales, to the Botany Bay, this province (later state) was the first to start marking the landing date of ships. NSW government decided to mark the thirtieth anniversary (1818), followed by the fiftieth anniversary (1838).
On the centenary of the arrival, all states and major cities (except Adelaide) accepted this date, calling it Anniversary Day. By then, Australia was building and developing at a rapid pace. People worldwide saw a chance for a new life in the new territory. The number of migrations has grown. The population of Australia became diverse.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, from January 1, 1901, Australia became independent of the British Crown. For the Aboriginal nation, this meant the beginning of certain changes. Yet, they knew that the established practice wouldn’t be easily abandoned. Violent assimilation and adoption of aboriginal kids continued under the excuse that this is being done for their better future.
For more information about the ‘Stolen generations,’ check the page below:
The 150th anniversary of the settlement, it was widely celebrated. Authorities forced Aboriginal people to join the celebrations. The plan was to reconstruct the first landing, but a problem arose because there were different versions of that event. Since 1938, Aboriginal people have been protesting every January 26. Even today, they ask for the abolition of the national holiday or at least marking it on another date.
Despite many controversies, Australia today is a democratic country. All people enjoy human rights guaranteed by its highest legal act. The Land Down Under needs a day when those who built modern country will mark their arrival. Only the date should be more appropriate.