"We think it’s frankly sickening that we continue to celebrate on this cruelest of anniversaries."
Sydney electronic luminaries The Presets have been historically unafraid to weigh into the political arena with intelligent, often emotive missives for the general populace designed to inspire thought and societal discourse, and they've made it clear that's not changing any time soon with a heartfelt, wide-ranging note about tomorrow's public holiday.
To wit: They don't begrudge you your parties, but The Presets will not be celebrating Australia Day tomorrow, and they have plenty of reasons for that decision.
As anyone who doesn't live in total ignorance of Australian society should know, Australia Day is something of a contentious occasion for the people living here. It's not like the USA's Independence Day, for example, which celebrates the country's severance of ties with the British (which, hey, we can all get behind) — rather, it's more akin to Columbus Day, a day that many Americans revere, and a great number revile.
In their note, posted to Facebook this afternoon, The Presets highlight the fact that Australia Day — or Invasion Day, or Survival Day, depending on your perspective — commemorates not the occasion of some great moment in cross-cultural unity between peoples but, rather, the day the British commenced settlement and, with it, the systemic abuses of Australia's indigenous population that fester away to this day underneath the surface of Western-bred society.
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"January 26 marks the anniversary of the British settlement of Australia," the band wrote in their post. "Whilst it is a positive commemoration for some, for many others it is a tragic anniversary.
"For the indigenous people who were here long before those boats came, January 26 marks the beginning of the end for their way of life — a way of life that hey had enjoyed for over 40,000 years. 26 January is [the] day white man arrived with his guns, his alcohol, his church, his flus and other unknown illnesses.
"Out of all the days of the year that we could possibly choose to celebrate this wonderful nation of Australia, we think it's frankly sickening that we continue to celebrate on this cruelest of anniversaries, January 26."
Before you grab your flags and torches, though, The Presets also acknowledge that none of this is to suggest that we shouldn't have some sort of celebratory day based around an event or occasion that can be commemorated equally on all sides, such as Federation, great moments in Aussie sporting history (jokingly), the birthdays of Henry Lawson or Eddie Mabo, or even a day that hasn't yet happened but would definitely signify an attempt at active disassociation from Britain and its history of colonialism — the potential creation of a republic.
"We look forward to a time where a new day is chosen to celebrate our great nation - a day that we can all truly get behind," The Presets wrote. "January 1st, our day of Federation as a nation, has been widely suggested.
"But when else? Let’s put our heads together and try and come up with something better … what about a birthday? Henry Lawson’s birthday, June 17? Or even better, Eddie Mabo’s birthday on June 29? Or what about 16 August?
"That was the date back in 1975 that the then Prime Minster Gough Whitlam visited a remote area in the Northern Territory. There he famously poured a handful of soil into the hands of Gurindji man Vincent Lingiari to symbolically mark the handing back of Wave Hill station to the Gurindji people. Imagine that - a world leader, standing in the desert, symbolically `giving the land back’ to it’s traditional owners. Wow!
"Or perhaps the day we need has not even occurred yet? Perhaps it is the day in the (hopefully) not too distant future where we finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people and their tens of thousands of year history in our constitution?
"Or maybe, just maybe, it is the day in the future when this nation finally becomes a Republic? Imagine that…"
Ultimately, The Presets offer up a tonne of alternatives to 26 January — "anything would be better than" that, they say — but they really only have one stipulation for a new date for Australia Day, and that is, "Whatever day we choose, it must be something that all Australians can truly get behind once and for all."
Read their full post below and remember, they're not saying you shouldn't enjoy Australia Day in the meantime; just be mindful of those who have a genuine reason not to.