And so, with a touch of the uncanny that aligns wonderfully well with the Rudd Government’s rhetoric on indigenous issues over the last twelve months, Mick Dodson has been named Australian of the Year this afternoon. Personally I think Dodson is an excellent choice, but there is little doubt that he is also going to do a bit of pot-stirring and cause a bit of trouble for the government. On the eve of the most ocker day of the year, a day when the anglo-nationalists among us can wave their banners freely in the streets and pretend they’re our best mates, the incoming Australian of the Year has wasted little time telling us that Australia Day is unaustralian:
Immediately following the official ceremony, Prof Dodson called for a “national conversation” about changing the date of Australia Day, which commemorates the landing of the first fleet on Australian shores in 1788.
“We have to have a date that’s more inclusive than January 26, which is the date that’s chosen as the landing of the first fleet at Sydney Cove,” Prof Dodson told reporters.
“Many of our people call it invasion day.”
Clearly Dodson’s tenure as Australian of the Year will afford him and indigenous Australia a number of golden opportunities to move reconciliation forward and push the indigenous agenda into the public limelight. Unfortunately, controversial comments like these will necessarily incite right-wing hacks and all their dimwitted minions across Australia to react quickly to condemn Dodson and his “black armband” view of history. We are in danger of restarting a number of lowbrow, misinformed conversations on Aboriginal Australia that we could well do without; conversations that should have been buried alongside the White Australia Policy decades ago, yet strangely still linger.
I am certainly not opposed in principle to the possibility of moving Australia’s Day to another day; perhaps one that celebrates our Federation as a nation. Why shouldn’t we rediscover and celebrate the modern history of our nation that has been gathering dust in the attic of public life for several decades now? The nation was officially proclaimed on New Year’s Day in 1901; so why not nominate the 2nd of January a public holiday and our truly national day, one that all Australians can celebrate? Alternatively, we could celebrate the day that the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 received royal assent, on 9th July 1900.
It is a shame that this is such a symbolic issue that is almost guaranteed to polarise Australians across the nation. Those with a skerrick of empathy and a yearning for a united Australia would understand where folks like Dodson are coming from. The rest, and I fear that the majority fall into this category, will no doubt view Dodson’s incursion onto our day of fervent nationalism as some kind of loopy black-fella joke.
ELSEWHERE: More from Mark over at the Larvatus Prodeo.