Voters don’t know why Australia Day is held on January 26: survey

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Several voters would not care if Australia Day was moved to a different date. Many are not even aware why the official National Day of Australia is held on January 26, new polling suggests.

The majority or 56 percent of respondents said they are flexible when Australia Day takes place, Research Now’s recent polling shows. The findings challenge the assumption that Aussies see January 26 as unchangeable.

Deputy director Ebony Bennett said that the polling shows that Australians are laid back about the date. It comes amidst the intensifying community and political debate regarding “change the date” movement. Indigenous Aussie groups have referred to the date as “Survival Day” and “Invasion Day.”

When asked to suggest a date, 70 percent preferred a date that does not have anything to do with the First Fleet. Less than a quarter or 23 percent chose the landing in Sydney Cove as the best option.

The polling also shows that 77 percent of respondents believe, incorrectly, that the celebration has always taken place on January 26. The truth is the date was not adopted by all states until 1935. It has been happening in its current form since 1994.

Some seemed unaware that the date marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales. Research Now’s recent polling shows that just around a third of Aussies or 37 percent realise the date is offensive to indigenous people. It represents the commencement of the British colonisation which led to the persecution of Australian Aborigines.

Respondents were provided with 11 multiple choice options. Thirty-eight percent appropriately identified the event January 26 marks.

Some of them thought that it marked the day Captain Cook first sighted the country, the day Australia earned its independence or the day the constitution was signed. A small percentage or four percent of respondents linked the date to events that did not take place, like becoming a republic or signing a treaty with Aboriginal Australia.

While a number of respondents would not mind if Australia Day was moved to a different date, the survey of 1,417 people shows that almost everyone thinks it is imperative that the country has a national day of celebration. Recent ceremonies sought to celebrate diverse members of the community through the Australia Day Honours list and Australian of the Year Awards.