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Celebration of Australia Day

Tuesday, 13 February 2018  | Ross Macmillan

I find myself in furious agreement with both sides in this discussion of the meaning of 26th January, but with neither in the solutions offered.

What about using the Anzac Day model for Australia Day on 26th January? Like the former, Australia Day seeks to express two legitimate sentiments and these could both be acknowledged and celebrated at different times on the one day.

Various ‘First Peoples’ ceremonies (of their choosing but for all people) – story-telling, mourning, confession, repentance, acknowledgement, rejoicing etc. - could be held in the morning. ‘Second Peoples’ ceremonies (again of their choosing but for all people) – citizenship and other ceremonies and celebrations, thanksgiving, etc. – could be held in the afternoon. Of course both Peoples would be invited and encouraged to attend both ceremonies because both are involved in all of our history.

If the both Peoples would approve of it locally we could establish, at some appropriate public site in each locality, a simple, low profile plaque acknowledging, in stone and bronze, the kind of sentiments of recognition that are now often stated verbally. The First Peoples’ ceremonies could be held there; the ‘Second Peoples’ ceremonies could be held at existing community site or sites – Town Halls, Civic Centres, Churches, Schools etc.

All sorts of joint activities could be enjoyed – meals, individual and teams sports, competitions and games of all sorts, craft/ art exhibitions, lectures, story-telling etc.

Surely it is not beyond us to find a model like this that would allow both Peoples to express their legitimate feelings in a friendly and reason-able manner and to grow together.

Ross Macmillan is an agricultural engineer who retired from the University of Melbourne a few years ago. He reads many things, writes about agricultural technology and watches the grass grow on the family farm near Melbourne.

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