Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Statements on Indulgence
I wish to make a statement on indulgence about the importance of celebrating our national day, Australia Day. On Australia Day, we celebrate the most successful multicultural society in the world. We celebrate a nation that begins with the most ancient human culture in the world.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
On Australia Day, we celebrate this most remarkable nation of 24 million Australians. It has the oldest human civilisation in the world, that of our First Australians, which is 65,000 years old. Our ceremonies and our celebrations on Australia Day begin with an acknowledgement of country and a welcome to country, and conclude with the newest Australians. And every one of those Australians, our First Australians and the youngest baby in the newest citizen's arms, are all part of our great multicultural nation. We have so much to celebrate and so much of which to be proud.
In a world riven by discord and violence, we are united in our Australian values, and we celebrate those on Australia Day. We recognise that the history of European settlement in Australia has been complex and tragic for Indigenous Australians. We recognise the complexities and the challenges of our history. But on Australia Day we recognise the greatness of our achievement as Australians, we recognise the remarkable nation we have become, we recognise and honour our first Australians and our newest migrant citizens. We bring all that together in a day that is uniquely and proudly Australian, and that is why my government and every government before me in this House has urged Australians to celebrate Australia Day, to get behind it, to be proud of it, to be committed to it. That is why the recent decision of the Yarra Council is utterly out of step with Australian values. They are seeking to take a day which unites Australia and turn it into one which divides us. To change the date of Australia Day would be to turn our back on Australian values, on the great achievement of 24 million Australians, here in the greatest, most successful multicultural society in the world.
Government members: Hear, hear!
For a moment, I thought we were at the Yarra City Council, until I looked at who was speaking. But going to the important issue, there is no doubt, even before the Prime Minister spoke, that Australia Day is a most important national day. It does commemorate the first British penal colony established in Australia, and it also, I believe, is a source of great celebration for Australians right up to the current day. But it does also acknowledge, as the Prime Minister said, that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 26 January can speak of dispossession and sorrow. It also, I believe, needs to recognise that before the British settlement there were 65,000 years of continuous occupation by the world's oldest continuing culture in our country. Now, I do not support changing the date of Australia Day.
Mr Taylor interjecting—
It is a day of citizenship ceremonies, of looking to the future, of celebrating all our cultures, faiths and traditions. The member for Barton, for example, has spoken most eloquently about this. Reconciliation is more about changing hearts and minds than it is about moving public holidays, but, of course, if we look at national days that are important in the history of this country, there is 1 March 1901, when the Australian parliament, the Australian nation, came into being—when our old friend the Constitution came into being! There is, of course, another potential national public holiday, which has not yet been gazetted, and that will be the day when we finally have an Australian head of state.