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Abetz Comments on 26 January Disrespectful and Divisive

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Tags: Aboriginal Tasmanians, Invasion Day, Reconciliation

Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens' Leader and Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz does not appear to be able to help himself, using disrespectful and divisive language to put the case for maintaining 26 January as our national day.

To dismiss as ‘left wing activists and latte sipping apologists’ every Australian who feels 26 January is not a day that unites us, because it celebrates the arrival of the British at the huge cost of Aboriginal Australians, ignores reality.

Not once in his media statement did Senator Abetz use the word ‘Aboriginal’ nor did he acknowledge that it is in fact Australia’s First People who are the strongest voice for changing the date.

For Aboriginal Australians, the 26th of January is a day of pain.  For non-Aboriginal Australians who aspire to true reconciliation with the First People, it is a day we mark with mixed emotions.

Senator Abetz suggests that ‘more and more Australians ... reflect on who we are’ on Australia Day.  It’s unfortunate that he fails to acknowledge more and more Australians want the date changed so every Australian can celebrate the best of our shared, diverse and inclusive national culture.

Perhaps tomorrow, Senator Abetz could pause a moment to reflect on what a richly multicultural and young nation we are, and the fact that for tens of thousands of years before Europeans arrived, this continent was home to Aboriginal people. 

While Senator Abetz, like every non-Aboriginal Australian today, is not directly responsible for past dispossession and cruelty to Aboriginal people, he could think more deeply and exercise some sensitivity towards the Aboriginal voices calling for change today.

Senator Abetz does not speak for every Australian, nor every Tasmanian.  He certainly does not speak for Aboriginal people.  In fact, he wilfully ignores their history, their culture and the fact that the 26th of January 1788 is the day they lost their country.

This is not surprising from one of the most vocal advocates of weakening race discrimination laws in Australia and a cheerleader for Donald Trump following his election.