Friday, 19 June 2020

Time to change the date of Australia Day?

All the ruckus kicked up during the pandemic – which has caused people to react more violently and with more emotion than they otherwise would – in the wake of the death, on 25 May, on George Floyd, has resulted in novelty. Statues have been vandalised. In the UK, a statue of a former politician was encased in a box to protect it. A retailer in Australia pulled from its shelves beer with the word “Colonial” in the brand name, and the brewer made a public statement.

Even closer to home, I was talking with a friend using the video function in Facebook Messenger and we got to this subject – she’d asked me if there was anything in my country to mark the death of Floyd a month ago, and I listed some – when she got up and went to fetch a cap she had bought a year earlier. The reason for her sudden departure from the screen was a bit complicated, but since I’ve only put up a couple of political posts this year, I’ll include it here.

She’d been visiting Sydney (where I live) and had needed a cap to protect her face from the sun which, in summer, is very harsh. The pink cap she bought for this reason (see image above) had the country’s name stitched on it, as well as “Est 1788” (“established in 1788” – the year marking the arrival of the First Fleet full of convicts in the waterway that would become Sydney Harbour). But as soon as she bought the cap she painstakingly picked part of the rubric off, leaving only “ES” and “88”. A lack of melanin in her skin necessitating the purchase and her sense of justice necessitating her subsequent actions. Their low-key nature highlighting the passion that motivated her to behave like this; the embroidery took time and effort to remove. 

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if the remainder had read “GF” and “20”. It’s fortunate for our government that the regrettable murder of George Floyd fell in May and not, say, in November as, if it had been five months earlier, calls for the date of our national day to be changed – to reflect the depth of feeling of the Aboriginal community, for whom 26 January is a reminder of a period of great suffering – would undoubtedly have been overwhelming. 

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