From our readers: A more inclusive date to celebrate Australia

Jan 29, 2022
Aboriginal flag mural
(Image: Flickr/Michael Coghlan)

In letters to the editor, an alternative to January 26 as Australia Day, Labor’s election strategy, and the environmental cost of selfishness.

In acknowledging Australia Day this week, historian Henry Reynolds reflected on what the arrival of the British in Australia really meant. Read on for a proposal on an alternative date as our national day, as well as responses from readers to Jack Waterford’s assessment of Anthony Albanese’s election strategy and Peter Sainsbury’s regular environmental round up.

We welcome your responses to our articles. To submit a letter to the editor, please email us at, including your full name and town or suburb, and the article to which you are responding. Letters should be no longer than 200 words, and may be edited for clarity, style and length.

Change the date — Henry Reynolds

Conservatives venerate January 26. Do they even understand how it happened?

Australia Day has come again and Henry Reynolds is right to raise its highly contentious basis. I grew up in the “old orthodoxy”, in which Indigenous people and their plight were invisible. Fifteen years working in European universities changed that. Living in a continent in which nations had been fighting and conquering each other for millennia meant that the consequences of this warfare could hardly be invisible. When I returned in 1983 and with an enlarged perspective it seemed absolutely clear that the plight of Indigenous people was a blight on the body politic and that celebrating the national holiday on the date of the arrival of the British on 26 January 1788 was a colossal affront and a prodigious insult to the body politic of the nation as a whole. Since 1984 I have boycotted that supposedly national holiday. The problem is that the original occupants of this land, who still live among us in considerable numbers, were annually insulted and re-abused by the memorialising of that ancient British assault on them and their land.  There is thus no alternative but to change the date to one which can claim some kind of comprehensiveness in the nation. My suggestion is the date of the amendment to the constitution following the referendum on 26 May 1967. On that day 91 per cent voted to change section 127 of the constitution so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be included in the population of citizens of Australia. This was an overwhelming and momentous change endorsed by a huge majority of the population. Furthermore, it was an act of the Australian people under the constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, an entity that did not exist during the 19th century. It was thus a national act of recognition and of hope in the future. It would be inclusive of all our citizens and carry the notes of inclusion, recognition, confidence and hope, rather than the shame of dispossession and the corrosion of denial. — Bruce Kay, Paddington, NSW

How Anthony Albanese can win — Jack Waterford

Is unsure, cautious Albanese wily enough to outwit Morrison?

I hope Anthony Albanese or one of his advisers reads the two excellent appraisals presented by Jack Waterford. Being a “no target”, as Waterford points out, doesn’t mean that Scott Morrison will neglect to indeed target Albanese. We already know from ample experience and abundant documented evidence that Morrison and his team employ lies, misconceptions, misleading information, in fact, the full panoply of disinformation marketed by the Coalition. Part of this “deluge of mud” will involve direct negative attacks on Albanese. Labor at the moment appears “caught in the headlights”, frozen with indecision, paralysed by the 2019 election debacle, for them. Thus, they have made themselves perfect targets for the Coalition “wolves” lusting for further victory and pillage of public resources. Albanese needs to attack Morrison’s dishonesty, his authoritarian instincts, and his pretensions to being “one of us”, an ordinary Australian. He needs to start right now. He needs to go in hard and to fight like his (political) life depends on it. After all, that’s how Morrison fights. — Robert Harwood, West Hobart, Tasmania

The cost of selfishness — Peter Sainsbury

Sunday environmental round up

Thanks Peter Sainsbury for telling us about Barry Commoner’s book The Closing Circle, 1917. Commoner was a famous American ecologist who was deeply concerned about environmental degradation. He drew up four laws and a wiser system: everything is interconnected, reusing beats waste, Nature is best, every gain has a cost; so all production must be ecological, peaceful, and for social not only private gain (which is proving most difficult to reform). It is a great pity many humans ignored his 1971 insight and continued their fossil fuel use and land clearing, and selfishness thereby causing climate change. Australians also failed to stop invasive species such as rabbits, cats and weeds. The terrible consequences include mass extinctions. Fifty years on from the warnings, it is very late for climate action and saving the environment but the world must try hard with respecting Nature, from this year onward. — Barbara Fraser, Burwood, Victoria

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