With debate about Australia Day heating up as January 26 approaches, the country's first Aboriginal member of parliament has weighed in, calling for a new national day. Labor MP Linda Burney says the #ChangetheDate movement is unlikely to see a win anytime soon, and has instead floated a new public holiday celebrating Australia's first peoples.
“There is much for us to celebrate about this great country but you cannot ignore the fact that the date of January 26 is problematic. It marks the usurpation of Aboriginal sovereignty," Burney told ABC Radio on Wednesday. "[But] I don’t see the date of Australia Day changing any time soon, and I don’t propose changing it.
"What I'm advocating, particularly in my own party, is that… Australia should have a national public holiday that celebrates, that lifts up, that recognises our first nation's people."
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Burney's calls come on the heels of the Greens announcing they will back the #ChangetheDate movement, which is pushing to shift Australia's national holiday from January 26—the day the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay in 1788. Increasingly, this date is seen as Invasion Day, marking the end of Aboriginal sovereignty and the start of British colonial rule in Australia.
Tennis legend Pat Cash has also threw his support behind changing the date on Tuesday. Cash said Australia's treatment of Indigenous people meant he could no longer celebrate the day.
Despite Burney's calls, Labor doesn't officially back changing the date. Neither does the Turnbull Government, which is pushing back strongly against growing opposition to January 26. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a video Tuesday criticising people protesting the date. "I'm disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day," he said. "Seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that will divide us."