• Witiyana Marika, a Rirratjingu leader and founder of the Indigenous music group Yothu Yindi. (NITV)Source: NITV
One of the band’s founders said he does not support protests on the national holiday or changing the date.
Greg Dunlop

16 Jan 2019 - 9:26 PM  UPDATED 16 Jan 2019 - 9:26 PM

Yothu Yindi have called for “unity” as debate about the most appropriate date to celebrate Australia Day has reignited.

The Arnhem Land band will be performing as part of official festivities organised by the NSW state government.

The Indigenous music group are famous for their 1991 protest anthem Treaty, the first song to hit the mainstream music market in any Aboriginal Australian language.

Witiyana Marika, Yothu Yindi co-founder, said it was a “privilege” to be a part of the January 26 program.

“We want to celebrate unity and redemption,” he told NITV.

“For me, I’d like to celebrate ‘cause of my survival… I’ve got my black power culture that I still carry on.”

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The NSW state government announced that its January 26 program will be based on the theme ‘Everyone, every story’ in an effort to bring people together.

Events will begin at sunrise with an Indigenous ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve and raising the Aboriginal and Australian flags on Sydney Harbour Bridge.

A street party will be held in The Rocks and ships and ferries will take to the harbour as part of the annual Ferrython.

In the evening, Yothu Yindi and The Treaty Project will perform at Campbell’s Cove while singer Kate Ceberano will take to the stage in front of the Opera House.

NSW Multiculturalism Minister, Ray Williams, said it would be a “great day” and dismissed suggestions that it would not be a day to celebrate for everyone.

“I think most people are happy to celebrate Australia Day on this particular date,” he said.

“I don’t think they want to get too political about it, they just want to celebrate everything that’s great about it.”

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New polling commissioned by conservative think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) showed three in four people believe Australia Day should continue to be celebrated on January 26.

It also said just 10 per cent of 1000 people surveyed want to change the date of the national day.

Bella d'Abrera, a spokeswoman for the IPA, was not surprised by the results.

“It reflects exactly what the poll came up with last year,” she told SBS.

“It shows that the more that anti-Australia Day groups push, the more young Australians and all Australians want to keep Australia Day on the 26th of January.”

Many First Nations people refer to January 26 as Invasion Day or Survival Day.

But Marika does not support changing the date or protests on the national holiday.

“I want to change my people to lean forward instead of fighting,” he said.

“Unity and redemption, to reconcile each other, yeah, to live together in harmony. That’s my dream, that’s my hope.”