Armenians should join #changethedate campaign for Australia Day

By Haig Kayserian - | Thursday, 26 January 2017

By Haig Kayserian -

Today is Australia Day.

The 26th of January, 2017, like every year, will be a holiday on which Australians will celebrate a summer day off from work with flags, sausages on a barbecue, visits to a beach, picnics, cricket, outdoor concerts... and anything else we have come to identify as quintessentially Australian as the country has evolved from the 26th of January, 1788.

However, the 26th of January, 1788 was a very different day to 26th of January, 2017.

The date being celebrated marks "the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. The 26th of January 1788 marked the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (then known as New Holland)." (Wikipedia)

Essentially, Australia Day is the day the British occupied the land of the Indigenous Australians and called it their own.

While Indigenous Australians, as well as all Australians, will recognise that admirable steps have been taken since that date in 1788 to recognise this land as Aboriginal and apologise for their suffering, a celebration on the date of their commemoration of loss of land, identity, and the beginning of generations of suffered inequality hardly seems appropriate.

This has given rise to a vociferous #changethedate campaign, which suggests that the date to celebrate what is quintessentially Australian be changed to a date which is not the darkest date of the original inhabitants of the land we now call ours.

Surely Australia Day can be held on any other date, and still involve flags, sausages on a barbecue, visits to a beach, picnics, cricket, outdoor concerts.

As an Australian of Armenian origin, I am empathetic to the feelings of Indigenous Australians.

I would not take kindly to modern day Turkey celebrating their occupation of Armenian territories on April 24th, the date marked as the beginning of the 1915 genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire.

In fact, I have always taken offence when Turkish people have interrupted commemorations and protests on April 24 with loud music, singing and dancing. I have equated that to dancing on the graves of our 1.5 million massacred Armenian ancestors.

It is for this reason that I write this article, asking Armenian-Australians to join the #changethedate campaign, and encourage the Australian government to pick a summer's day more appropriate to celebrate what is quintessentially Australian.

The following song called "JANUARY 26" angrily reflects the sentiments of many Australians, Indigenous or not. WARNING: it contains explicit lyrics.