The City of Fremantle in Western Australia has sparked conversation about changing the date of Australia Day.
Laura Morelli

25 Nov 2016 - 2:39 PM  UPDATED 6 Dec 2016 - 1:54 PM

Award winning journalist Erik Jensen who wrote an article advocating to change the date of Australia Day says freedom of speech can inspire difference.

“There isn’t a political will to talk about changes to the date, so it’s up to the media to talk the people about potential changes to the date, and it’s this that can change the politician’s minds,” he said.

"We saw this in Fremantle where its council changed the date. Local government are the ones that can cause change because they are the ones showing leadership. It’s them that are often setting up local celebrations. But overall it’s about inclusion, but it’s a larger conversation that needs to happen."

Mr Jensen says he's heard too many stories from friends who've been living with the unnecessary hurt that comes from January 26th celebrations.

“I think what’s important is that Australia day has only really been celebrated nationally since 1994, before that it was around when a long weekend could be fitted in easier. So it’s not a deeply rooted date. So if we question it, it’ll change.”

“It’s clear to see that people want to see change and that a larger discussion is needed around shifting Australia Day” 

Jensen’saware of several musicians who signed the pledge to not mark or attend Australia Day festivities and says they’re keen to initiate change.

“I’ve spoken to numerous artists privately about the boycott and many are quite sympathetic to it. Music artists are keen to make a difference and to lead in areas such as this.”

Mayor Brad Pettitt says it's not a day of celebration for everybody and it was an opportunity to come up with a different format on a different day.

Mr Pettitt said the council said it had heard "loud and clear" from local Aboriginal elders that it wasn't a day to celebrate.

But former West Australian of the Year Robert Isaacs said he hadn't heard of any complaints from his Aboriginal community, and strongly condemns the council for what they are doing.

"It's not in line with community attitudes," he said.

"I strongly condemn them for this whole thing ... Australia Day is Australia Day."

Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet of ships from Britain in NSW on January 26, 1788.

Social media support

Fremantle council cancels Australia Day fireworks display

Earlier this year the City of Fremantle councillors voted to scrap the port town's popular Australia Day fireworks event from 2017 after deeming the celebration culturally insensitive. 

The council will instead host a family-friendly event to celebrate being Australian on a different date yet to be finalised. 

The decision to cancel the fireworks was passed, nine votes to two, during a council meeting on Wednesday night.

"There has been a growing movement that January 26 is increasingly becoming a day that is 'not for all Australians'," Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said. 

"For many Aboriginal Australians it is indeed a day of sadness and dispossession.

"This does not just refer to indigenous involvement but the involvement of many other Australians who feel increasingly uncomfortable with the date and what it represents." 

Sparking change

Freemantle's not the only place thinking about sparking change. Adelaide-based brewers Sparkke Change Beverage Co have launched bold messages via their cans.

Progressive messages are brightly printed on the front label, covering issues such as first peoples’ rights, sexual consent, and immigration.



Thought provoking slogans such as "Change the Date" and “Consent Can’t Come After You Do” have arrived just in time for summer sessions.

The Sparkke Change team aims to pre-sell 10,000 cases through a Pozible campaign before being rolled out across Australia. Ten per cent of each sale will be given to an organisation aligned with the cause on the can.