Australia Day Creative Commons/Wikimedia

Say the words 'January 26' and most Australians will think of the beach, booze and Triple J's Hottest 100 songs of the past year.

But these aren't the only associations Aussies make, as more and more people each year oppose the celebration of Australia Day on January 26. In fact, many prefer to take to Invasion day marches all across Australia for the rights of Aboriginals.

In Sydney this year, the Aboriginal community, activists and supporters rallied from The Block in Redfern to Town Hall to protest for sovereignty, treaty and social justice.

The trouble with Australia Day

January 26 marks the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, and the anniversary of when the British proclaimed sovereignty over Australia, which was formally known as New Holland.

However, the date also marks the genocide attempt on the Indigenous population - the first nation of the country - and the start of the loss, grief and oppression of the Aboriginal community. This makes the official National Day of Australia a contentious issue, with many finding celebrations on this day offensive and insenstive.

“People celebrate when it’s the beginning of the killing of our people, the loss of language, devastation, disease,” said Ken Canning from the Indigenous Social Justice Association.

Although there are some Australians who claim they should not be blamed for the deeds of generations past, The New Matilda explains why Australia Day might still be offensive to the Indigenous community.

“It’s simply insane that anyone could expect Aboriginal people to embrace January 26 as the national day, given what it means to them . . . The most common refrain against this is, ‘It’s time to move on’. Here’s the problem with that statement. If you apply the same logic to non-Aboriginal Australia, then we should stop commemorating Anzac Day. ‘It’s time to move on. The wars were years ago.

“Another common refrain directed at Aboriginal people is: “I didn’t do it, it was previous generations.” That’s probably true – if you’re a young Australian, aged 23 or under, then the laws which disposed Aboriginal people were not created by a government in your lifetime . . . All Australians, regardless of their age, have directly benefitted from the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You enjoy the privileges of everything Australia has to offer directly at the expense of Aboriginal people. That’s something worth acknowledging.”

It is this acknowledgement that has prompted many Australians to create online petitions, campaigning for the date of Australia Day to be changed.

On, Andrew S. started an online petition, which drew 3,455 signatures in attempts to change the date.

“Celebrating on this date is insensitive, and offensive to many Indigenous Australians . . . No-one is saying we shouldn’t have a day to celebrate Australia . . . but the January 26th marks the beginning of white occupation, massacres and cultural genocide,” he said.

Peter Egan started his petition on, campaigning that the national holiday should be moved to May 9, which is when the Federal Parliament first sat in Canberra in 1927 and when Australia’s new Parliament House was opened.

Rob Buckingham also started his own online petition on

“In 1788 Australia was not a “land belonging to no one.” . . . Due to massacres, plus the introduction of disease and alcohol, the indigenous population decreased by almost 87% by 1900. These are hardly things worthy of celebration.”

More recently in 2016, Tully Gordon started another online petition on, this time a letter to the Australian of the Year Dave Morrison.

“I find the date offensive, to be recognised as a day for multicultural celebration when it’s meaning is a day of disempowerment, the day of the beginning of dominance, the raising of the very flag carried by persons who attempted genocide of a culture,” he said.

Gordon argued that the national holiday should be a day when every Australian is included and validated.

The wide support for this cause was also evident on social media.

Six Australians speak out for change

To better understand the sentiments behind why an increasing number of people are opposed to celebrating Australia Day on Jan. 26, the International Business Times Australia spoke to six Aussies from different backgrounds and races.

Western Sydney University student and poet Sharnay Mkhayber

“Australia Day should be on January the 1st because that’s when federation occurred. That is the day Australia became Australia and not the ‘colonies’. The fact that people celebrate the day when British settlers set foot on the land and decided that it was terra nullius is stupid and insensitive. Also, it was a precursor to the genocide of the Aboriginal people. It should be a day of mourning - similar to Anzac Day. So much has happened to the first people of this land. And it continues today. The absolute least we can do is acknowledge the atrocities that happened to them.

Many people won’t agree with this however, due to ‘routine’ and such. But the fact we celebrate is pretty much the same as celebrating a holocaust. The thing that comes to my mind sometimes is that perhaps people feel more sorry for the holocaust victims because the majority were white. Their struggles were the same as the first people of Australia.”

Founder and chief executive officer of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre & 2016 state finalist of Australia’s Local Hero, Kon Karapanagiotidis

“The 26th of January marks a day of profound grief, loss and injustice for our First Peoples. It is a day of mourning as it symbolises the start of over 200 years of oppression from the stolen generation to a genocide that at one point threatened to wipe out all Aboriginal people. We need to move the date. We need a treaty with Indigenous Australians; the date we create should be our Australia Day and the 26th of January can be our National Day of Mourning where we grieve as a nation, learn from the oldest living culture on earth and create genuine reconciliation.”

Chef, David Cotton

“Australia Day should be a day that can be celebrated and enjoyed by all Australians - Indigenous and non-Indigenous. However, celebrating on the date that marks the Anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet is disrespectful to the Indigenous Australians in the community. To me, Australia Day should be about celebrating Australia’s diversity, multiculturalism and mateship, therefore why not have it on a date that can be inclusive to the first Australians?”

Freelance Writer, Tanaya Das

“I think the only people who should be allowed to have a say on whether Australia day should be celebrated and when it should be celebrated are Indigenous Australians. Indigenous groups should be consulted on what and how to commemorate the country that is theirs. 26 January should be a day of mourning what we’ve put and continue to put Indigenous Australians though. It should be the day we only celebrate Indigenous Australian survival in spite of everything they are going through.”

University of New South Wales student, Saba Madani

“I think it’s important to not put our own perspectives or opinions into the issue and rather just listen to what Aboriginal Australians have to say about it and go from there. Having said that, from what I’ve learnt I think it’s important to boycott the event altogether. Regardless of which date it falls on, its celebrations are still dismissive of the history and current struggles of Indigenous Australians. And it’s definitely not a day for celebration but rather mourning, survival and reflection.

IT Support, Edward Re

“This date is the date when people from a foreign country came to make a land grab. Let’s say it happened today. Britain sends a ship, declares the country empty, then proceeds to either shoot, intimidate or unintentionally kill masses by new viruses. This would not be a cause for celebration for the people currently living here. I think that a day of commemoration would be the best way to make progress on this issue. There should be compulsory school lessons with the true history of Aboriginal Australia. Documentaries on the day would help raise awareness, like what’s done on Anzac day. Growing up, I always thought Australia was an amazing place, with a proud history, low corruption and a country that has made good progress. The older I get, the more I realise the golden unblemished image is far from the truth. It’s only after recognising problems that we can start to work on them.”