Time to change the date, because our mates are hurting

AT THE Good Shepherd church this year we had a bit of an Australia Day themed morning tea after church on Sunday, with a few dampers, some lamingtons, meat pies and a couple of Australian bush ballad songs.

I wondered if it would have been appropriate to reflect on Australia Day in the context of the church service, and I chose not to.

I made that choice because I feel it does the church no favour to be too mixed up with nationalism and national identity.

I have also been wondering about the "change the date" conversation.

My first thought was "why bother, it's just a day". There are two problems with that, the first and most obvious is, if it is just a day, then why not change it?

The second problem is deeper, that it isn't just a day.

It marks the day that the first fleet landed at Port Jackson, which for some people would be the birth of modern Australia, and for others, the day an invading nation landed.

At that stage it becomes clear why the date is difficult for many people.

I started to think then about what Australia Day might symbolically celebrate.

What are the values we are trying to renew in this annual telling of our story?

I am sure most people would use language like "mateship", "larrikinism", and a "fair go for all".

Some people would even point to a multicultural make up of our population, and a generally flat class structure.

If those are the things we value, not just things we say we value, then applying them to the question of a date for Australia Day means we would be willing to change the date, as those things have no connection to a moment on the calendar, and would inspire us to greater empathy for our mates who hurt every year at this time.

I suspect that resistance comes from people who have some or more of the following motives.

Those like me that have an instinctive reaction against change. This is often bolstered by a perception that the world is rapidly changing, and we do not know where the change is going to end.

Some people no doubt feel a connection to the first fleet colonists, and don't feel like they are descendants of an invading force, but rather that Australia is their home, and January 26 is the start of that.

They feel as though they are being attacked personally, and so react, rather than respond.

All in all, recognising those who would resist the change, I think changing the date would be the Aussie thing to do. To recognise the hurt for our mates, to be willing to give all people of this land a fair go, to laugh a little at ourselves, and try something different.