Changing the date of Australia Day is just not that big a deal

After all, if we were afraid to change anything because it might upset people we wouldn’t be living in the great nation we have today.

Federation itself was an unpopular idea at first. Western Australia has been agitating to exit the Federation ever since (with the WA Liberals passing a motion to establish a committee to investigate the options once again only last year).

John Howard’s gun control legislation went against his own party’s majority view. Paul Keating and Bob Hawke’s deregulation of the banks, floating of the dollar and end to centralised wage bargaining had to be pushed through against a significant proportion of their support base.

Even the idea that we might give indigenous Australians the vote was deeply unpopular when first proposed in 1910 and took until 1965 to get a ‘yes’ vote at referendum. Even then, nearly 10% of Australians voted against it.

Australians just aren’t very used to really dramatic change

You don’t have to live in Lebanon or Kazakhstan to experience real national crises.

In the US, all the nation’s public servants stop getting paid from this weekend unless the House can agree on funding bills and this has happened each year for the past few year.

In the UK, the government admits it still doesn’t really know how it’s going to implement a Brexit departure from the EU, and the EU doesn’t agree with the way the UK wants to do what it’s figured out so far. The UK doesn’t grind to a halt without a complete Brexit but it does have to ‘keep calm and carry on’ while much of the economic underpinning of the nation remains very much a work-in-progress.

Meanwhile in Australia, when you propose moving a national holiday (even when we have more national and state public holidays than any other Western nation) people start losing their shit, calling talkback, suggesting indigenous Australians already threaten “our way of life”, sending death threats to public figures and politicians who propose it.

It’s just a different date!

Nobody’s proposing abolishing the public holiday, or making it not about the foundation of the nation, or preventing you from BBQing meat, or banning people from sticking made-in-China plastic flags in their radiator grill and wearing southern cross singlets and thongs.

Yes, whichever other date we choose will no doubt already be reserved for Lithuania National Day or the Goondiwindi Cup or National Lamington Awareness Day.

But I humbly submit that none of those conflicts are as divisive as the uncomfortable fact that Australia Day is celebrated on the same date as many Australians, including myself, consider to be Invasion Day – the day we pulled a swifty on indigenous Australians and took what would today be considered rightfully theirs if the First Fleet arrived in 2018.

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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