Last night’s Q&A featured a pretty heated clash between Indigenous songwriter Dan Sultan, senator Jacqui Lambie and Attorney-General George Brandis over the date of Austtralia Day, with Sultan asserting it “has always been racist” and should be moved.
While arguing that a national day was a “great” idea in principle, Sultan pointed out that it shouldn’t be on a day “that started the ongoing genocide of our people”.
Many Indigenous people do not recognise notion of “Australia”. Should there be a national day at all? @dansultan & Brandis respond #QandA pic.twitter.com/kfL0jLLsoQ
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) August 28, 2017
Going on, Sultan outlined why the current date of Australia Day is exclusionary:
I think there are many days throughout our history that include everybody, and I think it’s important that a day called Australia Day includes all Australians.
The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t include us, excludes us. It excludes anyone who has any type of sympathy or empathy towards our story which is a hell of a lot of Australians. To call it Australia Day is wrong.
Predictably, Brandis was somewhat invested in keeping Australia Day on January 26th.
“There is a natural logic about the 26th of January as the point in time at which the Australia we now recognise, modern Australia, had its beginning,” Brandis replied. “Without for a moment disrespecting the fact that … there were Indigenous people living on this continent.”
Brandis said that Australia Day should be a day when we celebrate “the good inclusive nation that Australia has become,” while also reflecting on the “darker passages” of its history – not that anyone’s ever seen much reflection during Australia Day ceremonies and reflections.
Sultan shot back immediately, pointing out that Brandis’ grand proclamations about the burdens of the past doesn’t carry a great deal of water while First Australians still suffer at a hugely disproportionate rate to the rest of the country.
“There’s still Aboriginal deaths in custody at an alarming rate,” Sultan said.
“There’s still an alarming rate of suicide amongst teenagers in Aboriginal communities, it’s an ongoing genocide. For people to say it was in the past … it’s here now today.”
During a later discussion, Lambie returned to this point, bundling moves to change the date of Australia Day with other perceived threats to Australian culture.
Australia Day is supposed to be about us all coming united. Doesn’t matter what religion you are, what colour skin you are, where you have come from. None of that should matter. It’s about being united in country.
That’s the first thing … I’m worried about our culture, our ethics, our grassroots, our moral upbringing and all the rest because I just think we’re starting to lose that.
“Heaven forbid you lose your culture,” Sultan shot back.
Why didn’t we envisage the re-writing of history would lead to defacing Cook’s statue? @Tony_Burke Brandis & @dansultan respond #QandA pic.twitter.com/S9HAspgoHU
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) August 28, 2017
Lambie – who has Indigenous heritage – also argued that changing the date wouldn’t do anything to close the gap.
“I think what’s much more important to me is closing the gap to be honest,” she said.
“It will be a healing for 24 hours but we’re still going to be in the same situation and all the bad stuff … is still going to continue.”
Seems increasingly clear that there’s going to have to be some kind of resolution to this – it’s not an issue that’ll be going away.
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