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Should July 9 be Australia Day?

I’m recalling all the controversial discussion we’ve had in the past about the appropriateness of January 26, the date of Cook’s landing at Botany Bay in 1788, and the consequent annexing of Australia to the British Empire by the simple planting of a flag that ignored the rights of the traditional owners, as a day we should celebrate.

I’m sorry to have missed reminding you that July 9 was Constitution Day, but that is probably an indication of the lack of status we currently give that date.

July 9 is the date of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900, the Act of the British Parliament that set the new nation up.
It was the result of a consultative process that had taken place over the previous decade, resulted in at least two drafts, and accompanied by secession threats from at least one state. There’s an image of the front cover here, and more information can be found on the Documenting a Democracy website.

Interestingly few Australians would know that the states named in first paragraph of Chapter 12 of the original constitution are New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia (which included what is now the Northern Territory), Queensland and Tasmania. Western Australia was still thinking of secession at this stage. Western Australia agreed to join on 31 July 1900.

Or should we actually called January 1 Australia Day?
In 1901 the Commonwealth of Australia was officially proclaimed at Centennial Park in Sydney and the Earl of Hopetoun was sworn in as Australia’s first Governor General.

An interesting debate, especially in the light of another discussion that is happening at the moment about what Australian history content should be in the National Curriculum. A recent article in the Australian headed Schools failing to teach on Holocaust, says An obsession with Australian history in curriculums has left students able to leave school without knowing that the Holocaust occurred. An interesting statement in that less than a decade ago we were complaining that our students did not know enough Australian history.
The National Curriculum Board
, which first met on 23 April this year, is charged with delivering a single K-12 curriculum to be in operation from the beginning of the school year in 2011. The foundation areas are English, mathematics, the sciences and history, with a focus on literacy and numeracy. Be interesting to see what history makes it into the curriculum as the debate hots up. More about the National Curriculum Board here.

So which date do you think should be Australia Day?

  • January 1
  • January 26
  • July 9

Or other candidates?

  • 25 April (currently Anzac Day)
  • September 1 (currently Wattle Day)

A little known fact - India celebrates 26 January as Republic Day

2 Comments

  1. Posted July 17, 2008 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    As a high school history teacher with a view to the future, I believe our new Australia Day should be the day we become a republic, not an anachronistic date from the past but a lasting sign of our nation’s emerging maturity. As an ad once said, “It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”.
    Certainly our national day should NOT be the divisive current date and leave ANZAC Day as it is, enough meaning there already.

  2. Patrick Ward
    Posted December 21, 2008 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    And while we’re at it why not do something about our flag too….all of our Commonwealth peers have…and 22 of them remain constitutional monarchies.

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