Thanks to a blog reader, Anne, I have been reminded that January 26th officially marks the 1788 landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove and the raising of the Union Jack flag by Arthur Phillip following days of exploration of Port Jackson in what was later named New South Wales. That landing occurred in January but there is some variation in the literature about whether it was the 26th or another day around then. Probably as a matter of convenience the date for our national day was settled on the 26th. Only since 1994 has this date consistently been scheduled as a public holiday across Australia.
When writing the previous blog post I know I was influenced by discussions I have heard recently amongst aboriginal persons. It seems that for at least some of our nation’s indigenous population, this First Fleet ‘arrival’ was just one more incursion and the contacts made by Captain Cook tend to stand in their memory more indelibly as the start of encroachment on country; of course Cook’s contacts along the east coast of Australia happened on various dates.
Setting a date for our national day where the dates of contacts with colonisers are used as the basis for the event, will continue to arouse protests and discussions each year. I look forward to a day when everyone who lives in Australia is happy to celebrate a national day that celebrates what we are now, and does not reference atrocities of the past.