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The Forum > Article Comments > The days (and years) of our Australian lives > Comments

The days (and years) of our Australian lives : Comments

By David Stephens, published 28/1/2014

No, the year 2014 is notable for another reason: it is 113 years since Federation in 1901, just as 1901 was 113 years since the First Fleet arrived in 1788.

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Every year around this time, I ponder the appropriateness and meaning of "Australia Day." January 26 marks the founding in 1788 of the colony of New South Wales (not Australia) by landing a squadron of largely involuntary boat people -- much to the dismay of the local residents. Considering the history of settlement, it is clear that the other states and territories need not feel overly patriotic about the foundation of NSW. Declaring January 26th as a national founding day for Australia is rationally equivalent to celebrating May 14th as the official foundation day of the United States, because on that date in 1607 the Virginia Company founded the first permanent English settlement in North America (again, to the consternation of the locals).

It is often said that the United States gained nationhood through revolution against imperialism, whereas Australia gained its nationhood by evolution. Some even say Australia is still evolving, but slowly, and that complete independence will be achieved when it, too, severs its connection to the British crown. America's national day, Independence Day -- July 4th, is couched in a history of violence and bloodshed from which a new nation emerged. What is remarkable about Australia's history, on the other hand, is that it is markedly unremarkable. As Mr. Stevens said there should be more to a commemorative national day "than convicts disembarking, heroism in bad causes and a horse-race." Australians should feel ambivalent about celebrating January 26th as their national day. But what else is there? Drifting, drifting, drifting ....
Posted by JKUU, Wednesday, 29 January 2014 1:26:24 AM
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