Australia Day change: Let's hear the arguments

1 JANUARY 2003

The Professor of Public Ethics at CSU has backed the call by the 2009 Australian of the Year, Professor Mick Dodson, for a national debate over the meaning of and date for Australia Day.

Professor Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at CSU's Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.The Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University (CSU) has backed the call by the 2009 Australian of the Year, Professor Mick Dodson, for a national debate over the meaning of and date for Australia Day.
 
Professor Clive Hamilton, at the CSU Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) in Canberra, said it was both reasonable and important for such a senior and honoured Indigenous spokesperson to reflect the concerns of Indigenous Australians at this time.
 
“Many people believed that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s ‘Sorry’ speech in Parliament soon after coming to office reflected a new respect for the views of Indigenous people, but Mick Dodson’s call for a national ‘conversation’ has been shut down before it has even started,” said Professor Hamilton.
 
“By ruling out discussion of the view of many Indigenous people, that Australia Day celebrates the invasion of the continent and the beginning of their dispossession and repression, Mr Rudd shows a worrying disregard for Indigenous perspectives.
 
“Are we too afraid to hear the arguments? Can we have reconciliation if some people’s opinions are excluded?
 
“A national debate about Australia Day should be part of the transition to a republic, which seems only a matter of time. For a majority of Australians, becoming a republic would be a powerful symbol of independence and our maturity as a nation.
 
“The symbolism would have real meaning if at the same time we showed a renewed respect for the history of dispossession by adopting a new date for Australia Day that marked both the shift to a republic and recognition of original ownership of this land by the first Australians. January 26 could remain a public holiday to mark the arrival of the First Fleet and the history of white settlement, akin to Thanks Giving Day in the United States.
 
“Few Australians, black or white, would object to an extra public holiday,” Professor Hamilton said.

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