The first Indigenous woman to be elected to the House of Representatives has confirmed the Labor Party is not advocating changing the date of Australia Day.
“I don’t see the date of Australia Day changing anytime soon, and I don’t propose changing it.
“I have previously proposed an additional public holiday to acknowledge First Australians, and I stand by that,” Ms Burney told NITV News on Tuesday.
“But I do think that we should use this day [January 26] as an opportunity to reflect on the pain of the past as well as on how we can improve the lives of First Australians,” she added.
“There is much for us to celebrate about this great country. But you cannot ignore the fact that the date of 26 January is problematic. It marks the usurpation of Aboriginal sovereignty. I’m not sure this ought to be the most defining moment in our nation’s history.”
During a radio interview with the ABC on Wednesday, Ms Burney alluded to Martin Luther King Day in the United States and said, “Australia should have a national public holiday that celebrates, that lifts up, that recognizes First Nations Peoples, First Nations stories.”
“There are a number of days that lend themselves to having that sort of wonderful recognition in Australia finally, that there is a national day, a public holiday where all Australians can celebrate First Australians and the extraordinary wonderful unique history we have in this country of human occupation which is over 60,000.”
Ms Burney also reiterated that she felt Australia Day should still remain as a day for “deep reflection” and “truth-telling”, as it is a difficult and painful day for many First Australians, and not a day of celebration.
She also questioned the government’s lack of action regarding the Referendum Council’s proposals of an Indigenous voice to parliament and a truth-telling process.
“We are saying very clearly that the day needs to be a date about truth-telling and it also needs to be a day where the Australian people say to the Turnbull government, ‘where on Earth is the debate and the discussion of moving towards recognising First Peoples in the Australian Constitution?” she said.