Australia Day, and time to think where it is heading.

Submitted by Rick Eyre on January 28 2009, 7:47 am

Australia Day on Monday: the 221st anniversary of the arrival of a British naval fleet to dump its nation's surplus prisoners in a distant misunderstood continent. There's way too much going on in Sydney on any given January 26 to take in within the scope of one day, but I make a point of spending at least some time each year joining the indigenous community's Survival Day carnival.

Instead of being held on the fringe of the Sydney CBD, at Victoria Park next to Sydney University, Yabun should be held at a more central location, such as the Domain. Or perhaps even at Hyde Park, and bump "Australia's Biggest BBQ" out to Victoria Park!

Professor Mick Dodson, Yawuru man and lifelong indigenous activist, is a marvellous choice for Australian of the Year. He immediately raised the question of whether January 26 is the most appropriate day on which to celebrate Australia Day. On balance, I believe January 26 is the right day.

Two years ago, I wrote at length about the two Australias on display in Sydney on Australia Day, and my sentiments, and my opinions on January 26, remain the same, so I won't repeat them now. Australia Day is for all Australians, from those whose ancestors arrived here 40,000 years ago, to those who have taken refuge from wars in Afghanistan or Sudan in the 21st century, to celebrate this nation, to reflect on the ambivalence of its recent past, and to look with optimism towards its future.

A word of congratulations also to another great indigenous Australian who received the closest thing we have to a knighthood - Commander of the Order of Australia - in the Australia Day's honours list, namely Faith Bandler.

Two items worth reading: one, is NSW Governor Marie Bashir's Australia Day address, in which she discusses the life and works of one of her predecessors, Lachlan Macquarie. (Listen to her speech at the Radio National website.) The other, former NSW Premier Bob Carr's opinion piece in yesterday's The Australian arguing the case for retaining January 26 as Australia Day.

(The video above is of the 21-gun salute at midday at Mrs Macquarie's Chair as part of the "traditional" Australia Day festivities.)