Republic on the cards
INDIGENOUS federal frontbencher Ken Wyatt says the debate over a new date for Australia Day will stop when the nation becomes a republic, a change he suggests is inevitable within the next 10 years.
He believes the momentum for a republic would be supported by a younger generation “less wed to the monarchy with a strong sense of national identity”.
“At one time you could have said Australians would not support same-sex marriage, but we’ve matured and grown, and changed,” he said.
Debate over a new date is audible in Minister Wyatt’s electorate of Hasluck.
“I’ve had constituents say don’t move the date and calls from people who say how can you not support your own people?” he said.
“Australia Day has become more focused on nationalism and by that I mean we take great pride in the nation we’ve become, but equally there are people that would like to see a change of date.”
He said celebrations on January 26, which became a public holiday in 1994, had become significant in the past five years.
“To some extent, the survey that was undertaken recently clearly showed a lot of Australians do not know the origin of Australia Day other than a day of celebrating being Australian and the way of life we have with family and friends,” he said.
However, for Aboriginal Australians the date reflects the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in 1788.
He said a change of date required the consensus of Australians.
“This time, there is a
heightened sense of a change because it’s come from Richard Di Natale and the Greens writing to local governments, but the government needs to take into consideration the views of Australians because we’re asking people to rethink what Australia Day is.
“What does worry me is whether we create a division within this debate in a way that is unsavoury,” he said.
Ken Wyatt wore a traditional cloak when he was sworn in as Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health on January 24, 2017.