Rudd Breaks Election Promise to Change Australia Day

The National Indigenous Times spiked the Labor Party for reneging on their election promise to change the date of Australia Day to one more suited to celebration by all Australians.

There’s no good reason for indigenous people to celebrate Invasion Day – it’s a day of mourning and remembrance of genocide for the aboriginal people.

The promise was contained in the ALP’s National Platform, a document that outlines the policy aspirations of the party and which is agreed to at the ALP’s National Convention every three years.

The current National Platform commits the ALP to implementing the six recommendations made in the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR)’s final report, issued in 2000.

One of those recommendations is to implement CAR’s Roadmap to Reconciliation.

And an “essential” action of that report is to change the date of Australia Day.

The promise is contained in the 2007 National Platform, and also the previous 2004 platform.

But this week, the Rudd government confirmed it had no intention of making good on the promise.

Last week, NIT submitted a series of questions on the promise to the Prime Minister’s office. After no reply, NIT was directed to the office of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.

Government officials finally replied with a single line statement: “Australia Day will continue to be celebrated on January 26.”

The debate over whether to change Australia Day, the celebration of the First Fleet’s landing, to something that is more inclusive is a heated one.

After receiving no explanation for why the promise would not be kept, NIT asked the Prime Minister for further comment on their broken election promise. The questions were directed to the acting Indigenous affairs minister, Tanya Plibersek.

Again, the reply flatly refused to address the issue: “The Government has made significant progress in a number of key areas in our first 14 months although we acknowledge that there’s a lot more work to be done,” a spokesperson for Ms Plibersek said.

The ALP intransigence is all the more ironic given Rudd’s selection of Mick Dodson as Australian of the Year.

Mick is a staunch advocate for changing the date for Australia Day.

WITHIN minutes of accepting the Australian of the Year award yesterday, the indigenous leader Mick Dodson told the Rudd Government it needed to move the date of Australia Day because January 26 represented a “day of mourning” for many of his people.

Professor Dodson, a lawyer, also called for financial compensation for the stolen generations and for changes to government policy, including on the Northern Territory intervention.

A Yawuru man, he said he felt so strongly the current Australia Day excluded indigenous people that he considered refusing the nomination for the award but decided to accept it after listening to his family. Australians were “mature enough about it now” to consider moving the date, which currently commemorates the First Fleet’s arrival in Sydney – “the day on which our world came crashing down”.

Professor Dodson suggested February 13, the date the Rudd Government last year formally apologised to stolen generations.

Sorry day tomorrow

It’s been a long time coming, yet finally the big word that caught in little Johnny’s throat may ameloriate some of the hurt inflicted on Australian indigenous people tomorrow and allow healing for some members of the Stolen Generation.

Kevvie wants to get his speech just right, with good reason – firstly to say it right, without inflicting guilt on everyone, and secondly to avoid any loopholes, and a flurry of personal financial compensation claims which might clog up the federal courts. Due to 200 years of exploitation, things won’t change overnight – but more government money for health, education and policing will go a long way toward creating a better future for aboriginals generally. Can the positive aspects of a tribal culture which treasured living at one with the environment be rescued at this late juncture after years of patronisation, scorn and neglect?