By Philip Roberts, General Manager — Northern Operations  

Australia Day has become an increasingly contested space in recent years.

This year, the national Australia Day Committee has sought to bring those competing perspectives together.

This is the Story of Australia – the story of an extraordinary nation. The Story began 60,000 years ago and new chapters are written every day.
On Australia Day, we reflect on our history, its highs and its lows. We respect the stories of others, and we celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all, its people.
We’re all part of the story. 

Australia Day only became a national holiday in 1994. The date recognises the colonisation of what became New South Wales by the first fleet in 1788. Most other states have a separate holiday to celebrate their own colonisation, or invasion, as some choose to characterise it. This recognition does not acknowledge that Aboriginal people were living in Australia for over 2,000 generations. The 1992 Mabo decision by the High Court of Australia recognised this ‘fundamental truth’. Obviously, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples have known that for years – 60,000 years.

While most of us enjoy the day off, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on our grasp of Australian history. Not just whether we know that it was one of the days Governor Phillip and the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove, but our understanding of the broader sweep of history. If we are happy to present world-class Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and imagery to the world, then we also must also appreciate our less than world-class performance in other areas such as Indigenous peoples’ health outcomes which draw a clear line back to colonisation, dispossession and the social determinants of health.

It is common to say that individuals are not perfect. Similarly, countries are not perfect. They are not exceptional.  As the blurb from the Australia Day committee says, it is appropriate to understand and reflect on Australia’s history – its highs and lows and respect different perspectives that are now more obvious. This a key part of the reconciliation process.

Let’s use Australia Day to tell all our stories, build our understanding and move forward.