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Australia Today

Most Australians Have No Idea Why We Celebrate on January 26

A new poll shows only 38 percent of us know about the whole First Fleet thing.

A new poll from the Australia Institute reveals Australians don’t really care all that much about when Australia Day happens, or whether or not it’s offensive to Indigenous people. Actually, most of us have no idea why we’re celebrating it on January 26 in the first place. Huh.

According to the Australia Institute data, 56 percent of those surveyed don’t mind when Australia Day is celebrated, as long as some kind of national day of patriotism occurs. 84 percent of people said it was “important” to them that Australia has some kind of national day of commemoration and celebration.


Meanwhile, 49 percent of people believe that the current Australia Day date should be changed out of respect to Indigenous Australians. And only 38 percent of the respondents know that January 26 represents the date that the First Fleet landed in New South Wales in 1788. FYI, Australia didn’t federate as a nation until more than 100 years later.

We only started celebrating Australia Day in its current form in the mid-1990s, but the poll also revealed 77 percent of people incorrectly believe we’ve been sinking tins in paddling pools on January 26 since Federation. Which is kind of how politicians from both major parties would have you believe it.

“The polling shows that most Australians don’t know what historical event Australia Day commemorates and most people are not aware it wasn’t always celebrated on this date. Perhaps that’s why more than half of Australians say they don’t really mind when we hold Australia Day, as long as we do,” Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute said in a media statement.

The poll ties in with a recent push by the Greens (including Australia’s first female Indigenous MP, Linda Burney) for an Australia Day date change and the announcement by Triple J that its Hottest 100 countdown will no longer air on January 26. Yesterday, Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party announced its own bizarre alternative to the Hottest 100, featuring numerous artists who support a date change.

Meanwhile, Reconciliation Australia has told the Guardian that it is “impossible” for Australia Day to include all Australians when celebrated on January 26.

“Asking Indigenous people to celebrate on January 26 is like asking them to dance on their ancestors’ graves,” Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine said.

“We’ve changed the date before—in fact January 26 has only been a national public holiday since 1994—and will have to do so again if we want to achieve a national date that unifies all Australians.”