• Australians warped in Australian flags in Melbourne during Australia Day (SBS Arabic24)Source: SBS Arabic24
While more Australians say that Australia Day should not be celebrated on a day that is offensive to Indigenous Australians, many do not know the significance of January 26, according to a new poll.
18 Jan 2018 - 2:38 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2018 - 2:38 PM

Forty-nine per cent of Australians agree our national celebration should not be held on a day that offends First Nations peoples, but 46 per cent disagreed with the question, "the current date of Australia day is offensive to Indigenous Australians."

The figures reveal a real ignorance about the national holiday. 

Only 38 per cent were able to correctly identify that 26 January commemorates the landing of the First Fleet. 

14 per cent said they did not know, 19 per cent chose events that occurred before the First Fleet, while the remainder chose events that have not happened, including becoming a republic and signing a treaty with First Australians. 

The poll was conducted by Canberra based think-tank, the Australia Institute, which surveyed 1417 Australians regarding their knowledge about and attitudes to Australia Day. 

“The polling shows that most Australians don’t know what historical event Australia Day commemorates and most people are not aware it wasn’t always celebrated on this date. Perhaps that’s why more than half of Australians say they don’t really mind when we hold Australia Day, as long as we do,” Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of The Australia Institute said.

The poll also revealed most Australians agree it is important Australia has a national day of commemoration and celebration, but fifty-six per cent 'don't mind' on what date it is held. 

Greens leader Richard Di Natale has spearheaded a renewed campaign to change the date. He says the results show why it must happen. 

"What it does demonstrate is there is a great opportunity to move the nation forward, to choose a day that allows us to celebrate all the things that it means to be Australian," Mr Di Natale told ABC Radio. 

But Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge is adamant nothing needs to change. 

"The 26th January because it is a great unifying moment for this country where we properly celebrate our history," Mr Tudge told ABC Radio.  

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was 'disappointed' in the push to change the date, saying those who wanted to do so were dividing the nation. 

After a long silence on the issue, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten today confirmed Labor's support for Australia Day remaining on 26 January and accused Mr Turnbull of dividing the community. 

"You are not going to see me sneering at Indigenous Australians who want to have a discussion about a different date for Australia Day. The real problem here is that Mr Turnbull always looks for division within the community," he said. 

Mr Shorten agreed with Labor colleague, Linda Burney, saying the focus should be on Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. However, he shot down her suggestion of a new Indigenous public holiday to acknowledge First Australians. 

"I think we have enough public holidays in Australia." 

Burney calls for new Indigenous holiday, says Jan 26 is for truth-telling, not celebration
The Labor frontbencher confirmed her party won’t be pushing to change the date, but instead will focus on the practical issues affecting First Australians, such as jobs, housing, healthcare, incarceration rates and education.

But some prominent Indigenous Australians say they cannot celebrate a day which marks the beginning of colonisation. 

"Our history didn’t begin on 26 January 1788, it began over 65,000 years ago - and we’re still making it now,” says Tammy Solonec, a Nigena woman from Western Australia and Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia. 

“We have a chance to right wrongs. There are 364 other dates in the year when we can celebrate our country on a date that unites us, not divides us.”

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