Australia Day should be a day for celebration, patriotism and pride and reflecting on where we’re
headed as a nation.
But January has again been dominated by debate over when Australia Day should be celebrated.
And this year it’s been particularly aggressive. Aboriginal people who’ve publicly supported retaining
26 January have been racially abused, even physically threatened. The change-the- date campaign is
now led by far left activists (both Aboriginal and not) whose political face is the Greens. As their
campaign intensifies, so does push-back from those opposing change.
I’ve said Australia Day should be on 1 January when Australia was created, although I don’t think it’s
a priority and I don’t campaign for it. For me, 26 January signifies conflict and conquest; a date I
want to commemorate, but not celebrate. I want the date moved because I want to celebrate
Australia, not because I don’t.
I’m a proud Australian.
I’m proud this continent’s first nations are the oldest continuing nations in the world. Australia itself
is one of the world’s youngest nations, formed on 1 January 1901. So our continent hosts one of the
youngest nations of the world and also the oldest nations of the world. We are unique.
In 1901, Indigenous Australians weren’t full citizens and lived under segregation. This changed in
1967. I’m proud of that moment; proud change was achieved with the highest voting result in
Australia was founded on great principles of Western civilisation: democracy, free markets, rule of
law, separation of religion and the state, social pluralism, individual rights. And great British
institutions: Westminster government, common law, liberal rights. You can’t do much better.
I’m proud of Australia as a migrant nation where people from across the world have settled
peacefully, contributed positively. Australians are descended from over three hundred ancestries; a
tapestry of physical features, languages, religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds, even football codes.
All Australians can be proud of this continent’s shared 40,000-year history comprising its ancient
past, Western civilisation, British institutions and cultural richness from two centuries of
Some people wonder how I can be proud of Australia when my family, my ancestors and I were
treated so badly in its history.
No nation is founded on purity. Even nations that are standard bearers of liberty and justice, models
of progressiveness and enlightenment, have bloody and brutal histories. Human history is a record
of humans: the brutality of which humans are capable and the incredible capacity of humans to
advance, learn from wrongdoing, build better societies and improve the quality of all life. I don’t
judge a nation by the worst of its history but by how it overcomes that history and its vision for the
Australia has achieved things no other nation has.
Australia is independent. But we didn’t fight a bloody revolution against a colonial power. We
separated from Britain through legislation passed by democratic parliaments. We’re a peaceful
democracy where human rights and freedoms are upheld, even without a bill of rights.
We’re arguably the world’s most successful multicultural nation where, with few exceptions, people
from everywhere have settled cohesively as neighbours, workmates, even family.
In Australia, Indigenous rights were won through democratic and legal processes, not violent
insurgency: land rights, native title, equal rights, protection and revival of heritage, culture and
language, Indigenous ceremony at official events, measures to remedy past wrongdoing. At the 2017
United Nations’ Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People I met delegates from many
countries with indigenous populations. Few come close to Australia’s record in protections and
respect for indigenous people and cultures. Some are as bad as Australia ever was.
To those who condemn Australia because of history or claim it’s still a “racist nation”, I say name me
another country with Australia’s diversity that’s better, more harmonious, more respectful of
difference, more embracing of its indigenous heritage than Australia.
Australia is a secular society. All religions can worship but we have no official religion. Australia was
founded in the Christian tradition and several national holidays are Christian holy days. But no one is
obliged to embrace any beliefs.
Australia’s culture is unique. Not British, Aboriginal or migrant. The Australian way is pragmatic,
easy going, direct. Comfortable laughing at itself and everything else. Not easily upset: living here
has been far too challenging for that. Tough always, heroic when called upon. Looks out for others
when needed but respects people living their lives without external meddling. Live and let live goes
Australia isn’t divided by class. It was when I was a child and Aboriginal people lived under
segregation. But today anyone can achieve anything. Those who think Australia has class division
should spend some time in places like Britain or India to see what real class division is.
For these reasons and more, I can celebrate Australia. But I don’t think the Green-left wants to
celebrate Australia on any date. To the far-left mindset patriotism is racism. The Green-left aren’t
proud of Australia’s achievements, culture and way of life. It doesn’t support Australia’s prosperity.
The Australia it would be proud of is some imagined utopia delivered through its socialist, anti-
Western agenda. An agenda fundamentally founded on the idea Australia shouldn’t be touched
beyond its current level of development. No extractive industries. No remote or regional
development; not even by Aboriginal people on their own lands. Policies that drive electricity prices
up and reliability down, industry and jobs offshore.
The green-left agenda would take us to the same sorry place as every other socialist country: broke,
corrupt, hungry, and never knowing when the lights will be on. The political centre too often
appeases this agenda: privately knowing it’s economic vandalism, publicly too cowardly to tell urban
voters Australia can’t be anti-development, anti-everything and prosperous.
No culture or way of life, even one as strong and good as Australia’s, is set in stone. Countries are
constantly adapting to a changing world and changing demographics. Adaptation can be positive or
destructive. We can’t take it for granted. We must stand up for it.
This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review on 25 January 2018.
I'm proud of Australia and you should be too
26 January 2018
By Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO