• (Source: AAP)
To some Indigenous Australians, January the 26th is "Invasion Day" - the day in 1788 when the First Fleet of British settlers arrived on Australian shores.  
By
Marina Freri

Source:
World News Radio
24 Jan 2014 - 3:24 PM  UPDATED 24 Jan 2014 - 4:27 PM

To some Indigenous Australians, January the 26th is "Invasion Day" - the day in 1788 when the First Fleet of British settlers arrived on Australian shores.

(Transcript from World News Australia)

Australia Day continues to attract controversy, and some argue it shouldn't be a day of celebration.

(Click on audio tab above to hear full item)

Ahead of the 2014 Australia Day, graffiti has been sprayed on the cottage in Melbourne of the English navigator, James Cook - credited with the east coast discovery of Australia that led to British settlement.

It's the second year that the historic building has come under attack from graffiti artists expressing anger over the date chosen to celebrate national unity.

National Australia Day Council's Chief Executive Officer, Jeremy Lasek, says it's understandable some people struggle to accept the date.

But he maintains there's no immediate plan to change it.

"We do recognise the 26th of January is not easy for some Australians. The date itself that is the date at the moment. This is a debate that happens every year and at the moment I'm not sure there's a groundswell of growing support for a change of date. But it's a decision for government not for the Australia Day Council."

Nevertheless, Mr Lasek says people shouldn't forget that the current national day is not a time of happy celebrations for all Australians.

Indigenous elder and former Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Tom Calma, agrees.

He says many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people see the 26th of January as "Survival Day".

"What is of issue for many people, those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians, is that the 26 of January is not really Australia Day. It's not a day that we should be celebrating. We need to have a conversation about whether Australia Day should be the 26th of January, whether Australia Day should be the time that all the states of Australia came together, when the Constitution was made in 1901. Or do we wait like many other countries of the world and have their national day as the day that they gained independence from any colonial party?"

Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Officer, Leah Armstrong, says at present attributing a new, deeper meaning to Australia Day would be just as important.

"At this point in time I think what we need to do is build the awareness, the understanding, of what the day actually means to both Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander people and the broader population, and have a conversation. Now I think that's the important part, that we have that conversation."

Earlier this month, retailers Aldi and Big W also sparked controversy when they advertised Australia Day t-shirts bearing the slogan "Australia: Established 1788".

After an outcry that the t-shirts were racist and offensive, the companies withdrew them from sale.

Ms Armstrong says the marketing of such products shows a lack of awareness of Australian history.

"I think it's very disappointing that those corporations did have that but I see there's a point of their lack of awareness and ignorance as to, you know, that history of Australia that was before 1788. And that's why is important that our national curriculum recognises this is as Australia history other that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' history. It's Australia's history and goes much further back than1788."

Tom Calma agrees that there's a need for an informed and educated discussion about Australia's history and its national day.

He says that meanwhile, Australia Day is also a time to recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

And as such, Dr Calma says it should be an occasion for the whole nation to reconcile.

"Enjoy the day as a public holiday, celebrate it in a way that the individual feels is most important: be it a day of recreation, be it a day of participating in formal Australia Day events or be it a day of participating in Survival Day events around the nation. But do it as a way to reconcile, so that we as a nation can work together."