January 26 what to do? Celebrate or #changethedate

Photo of author
Written By Will Skis

Triple J Content Director Ollie Wards was clearly nervous when he took to the air to announce that the taxpayer-funded radio station was taking their iconic Hottest 100 Countdown and decoupling it from January 26th – Australia Day – once and for all.

The strategy was not a rash one, as Ollie repeatedly defended: He had 60% of his listeners on board with the decision, and plenty of artists and community groups consulted had said that dissociating from Australia Day was the right move.

Many of the listeners felt hurt, pain, guilt and grief on Australia Day. Many used the term Survival Day or Invasion Day to illustrate that their understanding of this date contains more significance than a simple commemoration of a boat full of Brits landing on a beach.

And many felt a day of mourning or at least solemn remem

brance was often marred by revelling Australians adorned with Australia’s flag as a cape, sometimes inebriated, sometimes jingoistic, aggressively celebrating their right to love their country. Not every Australian behaved in this manner, of course, but enough.

Yet still, the disdainful voices came across national media outlets in the days that followed the announcement. The bloody Left was trying to destroy history again. The outrage merchants are at it again, they said. The taxpayer funded Triple J (you know, the same one that played N.W.A’s ‘Express Yourself’ on repeat for 24 hours) was taking a political stance, by gosh and by gee. This would not stand.

 Never mind that Mr. Wards repeated that they were moving the countdown to AVOID the politicised debates – either moving it or not moving it would be seen as a political choice, which comes with ramifications. Within days, The Daily Telegraph was calling the move “controversial”.

 Of course, the alpha to Triple J’s omega, the yin to its yang… Triple M entered the mix. The commercial station famed for never quite knowing how much Acca Dacca is too much on a Monday morning shuffle, began its marketing campaign in earnest. The culture war was on, and Triple M certainly wasn’t going to be on the bloody un-Australian side. 

Now, this problem is multi-faceted. Already people are raising indignant fingers ready to lecture me in the comments section with a ‘well actually…’ — and let me save you the trouble. I’ve read it. I think most people reading this right now have probably seen the umpteen fights in comments sections whenever our national day is mentioned. Commenters arguing about where and when Australia Day started, who it represents, how it speaks to our national identity; all are out there in droves. Identity is a personal thing. For all Australians. ANZAC Day holds a specific reverence to those who have family and those who believe in the nation’s history, ideals and values. But we know it is not right to play two-up before 12pm on this day. It would be disrespectful. So, all of the nation respects this rule.

Those who get annoyed at simple gestures such as changing the date of Australia Day are often angry at changing history and say the politically correct are pandering to minorities and smug people hoping to virtue signal, without addressing more pressing Indigenous issues. Yet, Australia Day has really only been celebrated nationally since 1994 – before that it was a NSW-centric holiday where people in other states would watch the celebrations that were focused in Sydney on their TV screens.

Today, if you want to have a fun barbecue and a party and a drink with mates on your day off, no one is trying to ruin that with suggestions of a date change. Gestures of respect go a long way, and with Australia’s colonial history and its extremely diverse population, nothing can be more Australian than showing that we are truly a nation that can make a mature decision, like at least celebrating the occasion respectfully on a date that works for us all.

Whatever your views are regarding Australia Day or January 26th, it’s good to reflect upon what makes our nation great, what exactly it is that we are celebrating, what kinds of celebrations we are having, and whether our entire national community can celebrate it in the spirit of unity.

I agree with Hack’s James Purtill who states:

“To change the date of Australia Day, […] people would need to be convinced that reflection isn’t betrayal, and celebration isn’t always patriotism.”

Or you could listen to Triple M on your boombox, crack a tinny from 9am and walk around loudly celebrating with your Aussie flag cape in the streets. I mean, they have a cracking production team, and who doesn’t like 6 or so goes around AC/DC’s Back in Black per day?