Mahalia Handley on changing the date

We've reached out to a group of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non Indigenous Australians to find out their perspective and opinion on Australia Day, and changing the date. Please respect that this article serves as a platform for people to safely share their opinions on the topic. 

Mahalia Handley, Australian model with Irish/Maori heritage weighs in on the topic. 

Pictured: Mahalia Handley

"Whilst the 26th of January is a factual day for Australia, I am of the belief that celebrating this date as 'Australia Day' does not reflect unity nor as it marks the commencement of a long history of dispossession and trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Handley states. 

 "History records multiple dates heralding the arrival of the British to Australian shores, the first being the 22nd August 1788 when James Cook raised the Union Jack flag on what is now called Possession Island; claiming the eastern half of the continent as New South Wales for Great Britain. This was followed by the convict fleet who sailed into Sydney cove on the 26th of January 1788. However, it wasn't until 1935 that Australian states and territories adopted use of the term 'Australia Day' to formally mark the date. It was not until 1994 that the 26th of January was formally declared as a public holiday. The question begging to be asked is: why do we hold such strong ideals about the day when the convict fleets arrived? Is it really a day of 'discovery'? The raising of the British flag and subsequent 'claiming' of Australia on the 26th of January 1788 marked the day the First Australians lost the Australia they knew and loved."

 "The arrival of the first convict fleet commemorates the arrival of white people, firming the proposition that European settlement was the primary source of national identity and pride - ignoring more than 60,000 years of pre-colonial history and 230 years of multicultural migration to Australia. It also blatantly ignores the destruction which Aboriginal and Torres Strait persons endured thereafter. To keep the date of January 26th as Australia day as an apparent day of unity and celebration, are we actually glorifying a day that represents a long line of oppression for the original custodians of this magnificent country?"

 "To this day it is known that the Indigenous people of this land are still recovering from the chain of events that followed British arrival to Australian shores. History records the removal of many Indigenous people from their traditional lands stopping practice of their language and cultural values. Generations of children were abducted - stolen from their communities and centuries following saw hideous violence, rapes and killings."

"The intent of Great Britain pioneers may not have been to forcibly invade this country; however, the pages of history do reveal that they came to colonise. In acceptance of this we MUST acknowledge and comprehend that they came with plans to force change on a country that was already inhabited. Over time, a domino effect of destruction befell the first Australians of this country. The custodians of the land." 

"My research has led me to believe the 26th of January should not be celebrated as Australia day under which the Government profess we are ALL united in a respectful and free manner. After all, how are we as a country, supposed to move together hand in hand into the future embracing each others differences and celebrating all Australians from all walks of life, when 'we' the people, remain split at the core by celebrating on a day of much pain and trauma for so many?"

"Changing the date on which we celebrate all of what means to be a proud Australian would demonstrate in a simple yet effective manner that it is time. Time to acknowledge and teach all people about Indigenous histories, cultures and contributions as an integral part of the Australian story."

"I believe a positive way to move forward would include more education in all schools - I was never taught about the first fleets and repression of the Aboriginal people, neither was my mother or brother. Furthermore, specifically the 26th should mark the day when Aboriginal culture and beliefs are highlighted - a primary focus for schools and the general public."

I think the 26th should be a day that we all as a nation, recognise our history by mourning all that was lost...

"The 26th should be a  day when we are educated about the first fleet landing on our shores, and the result their arrival brought upon our country. It could be considered as pure ignorance to see only one side of the story, without acknowledging the other. I think the 26th should be a Remembrance day and not the day of celebration."

"I also think a second date on which we celebrate Australia Day should be identified - a day to proudly recognise the Australia we know and love. This new date could be a true celebration of our countries cultural diversity, and a day where we all stand together in unity and strength."

"It doesn't hurt anyone to change the date - but it continues to cause much anguish for Indigenous Australians if it's left as it is. Australians are renowned to be known as people of strength; always having each others back. Why can't we support those people for whom this date still has deeply traumatic effects?

Have a respectful opinion on the topic? We'd love to read about your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

 You can find Mahalia on Instagram here. 


3 comments


  • MR ROSS SASIC

    1). I don’t understand why so many Australians aren’t aware that the “Brits” don’t celebrate discovering Australia 26th 1788.

    2). The Aboroginal community should not allow our Leaders to celebrate “Smoking” ceremonies, dancing and face painting etc. This is just another way for the Politicians to brush us -off.

    3) We should not be inviting the Politicians to any Aboriginal sporting ceremonies, cultural events etc…


  • Tania

    I hope this blog is not to raise arguments which seem infinite in our society about colonies disrupting indigenous lands. I’m indigenous. It happened EVERYWHERE. There has been a lot of fortune and opportunity and very obviously errors and dominance but our indigenous peoples have endured remained courageous and will see many victories as we allow the blending ti continue into the future. Pride can be a block. Don’t we all live and contribute to the modern world and hi5 many progresses that without unifying we would never have achieved. I suggest the date is irrelevant. Many who desire ‘perfection’ will never be satisfied and those who enjoy and have know Jan 26 to be one celebrated for the purpose of the union of people – even if it didn’t start out ideally! Why change anything that works well? Agreeable that history is relevant but lets simply leave those perfecting scholars to their business and move forward leaving well alone. May God continue to bless Australia.


  • Evie Hanlon

    I agree. Just change the date. Honestly I’m really not understanding why people are so attached to January 26. Changing the date would’t solve Australia’s problems but it would at least be a gesture that we hear and we understand the pain of the past. The ALP’s Sorry speech, didn’t change a hell of a lot, but it was a step forward in our relationship with our Indigenous population. This could be the same and it has me stumped why the ALP at the very least don’t back this.


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