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Revellers have let their hair down and celebrated Australia Day in style by getting out and soaking up some of the gorgeous sun, sand and surf the country has to offer. 

Despite endless debate surrounding keeping January 26 as our national day and rowdy Invasion Day demonstrations attracting thousands in all capital cities, millions opted for parties not protests – taking the public holiday as a chance to relax and enjoy some picture-perfect weather.

Partygoers on the Gold Coast weren’t going to miss the opportunity to have a little fun on Thursday as they caught up with friends and celebrated what makes us The Lucky Country.

Some Australians put the divisive debate over the nation's history to one side to enjoy some sun, sand and surf on the public holiday (pictured)

Some Australians put the divisive debate over the nation’s history to one side to enjoy some sun, sand and surf on the public holiday (pictured)

Partygoers were out in droves on the Gold Coast where the temperature reached above 30C

Partygoers were out in droves on the Gold Coast where the temperature reached above 30C

Aussie flags - an increasingly rare site in Australia Day celebrations - were proudly on display

Aussie flags – an increasingly rare site in Australia Day celebrations – were proudly on display

Poll

What should we do about Australia Day?

  • Nothing, it’s a tradition 1104 votes
  • Let Aussies decide by voting on when we should hold it 41 votes
  • Scrap it completely 10 votes

Photos show Aussies enjoying the scorching 32C weather on the Gold Coast in their beach gear – most capital cities were in the high 20s except nearby Brisbane which also had a scorcher.

Peaceful beachside barbecues, boat rides and even out-of-vogue Aussie flags were in abundance.

It was a stark contrast to Melbourne where barley any Australian flag could be seen in the CBD. 

Greens Senator Thorpe headlined an Invasion Day protest on the steps of the Victorian Parliament and took to the stage clutching a war stick to loud cheers from the huge crowd in the midday heat.

The star of Melbourne’s treaty movement inflamed emotions with her declaration that Australia in 2023 was in a ‘war’ with Indigenous people.

In Sydney, there was no Australia Day parade throughout the city for the third year running, while thousands of people flocked to the streets to stand in solidarity with First Nations people.

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The sails of the Sydney Opera House were lit up with Indigenous artwork by proud Kamilaroi woman and artist, Rhonda Sampson, to celebrate First Nations women around the water of Sydney Harbour.

Australia Day BBQs were once an unquestionable tradition as people caught up with friends though it seems protests are now becoming what they day is known for

Australia Day BBQs were once an unquestionable tradition as people caught up with friends though it seems protests are now becoming what they day is known for 

Soaking up the sunshine: Revellers on the Gold Coast were in the party spirit

Soaking up the sunshine: Revellers on the Gold Coast were in the party spirit

The majority of young Australian adults want to keep Australia Day on January 26 or are undecided, according to one recent poll

The majority of young Australian adults want to keep Australia Day on January 26 or are undecided, according to one recent poll

Get the sunscreen: temperatures soared across the country on Australia Day

Get the sunscreen: temperatures soared across the country on Australia Day

What’s the problem with Australia Day? 

Australia Day has become increasingly contentious, with many campaigning for the holiday to be abolished entirely or the date changed.

The public holiday commemorates the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Harbour, with Governor Arthur Philip raising the British flag to mark the founding of New South Wales on January 26, 1788.

However, since 1938, Indigenous and First Nations people have observed the public holiday as a day of mourning and instead have named it ‘Invasion Day’.

This year’s Invasion Day rallies held in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Thursday aim to remind people that ‘sovereignty was never ceded’ and call for a date change, a treaty, and other policies designed to prioritise First Nations people. 

The day becoming increasingly divisive is reflected in just how remarkably few Australian flags were on display in photos from celebrations – or protests – in most capital cities.

In the lead up to the holiday, retail giant Kmart stopped stocking Australian flag merchandise entirely – which is usually available year round.

‘We respect that January 26 means different things to different people and we aim to foster an environment that is inclusive and respectful of both our customers and teams,’ a Kmart spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.

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‘It is for this reason that we will also be giving all of our team members the choice of whether or not they work that day, with the option to substitute for another day.’

But Australia Day was also a chance to welcome more than 19,000 new citizens across the nation who took part in ceremonies to become part of out modern multicultural society.

Among them was Mexican-born Nashieli Garcia Alaniz, who hopes to use her expertise as an ecologist to protect the nation’s native animals.

‘I’m super happy that I can participate in the country on a different level now and I can’t wait to contribute to help protect this environment,’ she said.

Recent polls suggest that while a majority of Australians believe January 26 should remain Australia Day, there is a growing group who would prefer it be changed to a less polarising date.

A poll conducted by conservative think tank, the IPA, surveyed 1,038 people from varying age ranges on their attitude to changing the date of Australia Day.

The poll results show that 62 per cent of people believe Australia Day should be held on January 26, while only 17 per cent believe the date should be changed, and 21 per cent had no opinion.

However, there is growing resentment towards the holiday. 

One recent poll showed 42 per cent of 18-24 year-olds agreed Australia Day should be celebrated on 26 January

One recent poll showed 42 per cent of 18-24 year-olds agreed Australia Day should be celebrated on 26 January

The Gold Coast was awash with boats as locals and tourists got out to enjoy the gorgeous weather

The Gold Coast was awash with boats as locals and tourists got out to enjoy the gorgeous weather

They didn't buy that from Kmart - the retailer stopped selling Aussie flags ahead of January 26

They didn’t buy that from Kmart – the retailer stopped selling Aussie flags ahead of January 26

‘We should recognise support for Australia Day to be celebrated on 26 January has declined from 75 per cent in 2019, to 69 per cent in 2021, to now 62 per cent in 2023,’ Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, John Roskam, wrote on the results. 

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‘Only 42 per cent of 18-24 year-olds agreed Australia Day should be celebrated on 26 January, 30 per cent disagreed, and 28 per cent had no opinion.’

So while a rapidly growing younger generation of Australians believe in changing the date there is still a large portion of the nation that just enjoy the holiday. 

But it’s not just the date that has become divisive many have used January 26 to rally against the Albanese government’s proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Indigenous anti-mining activist Adrian Burragubba in Sydney’s protests called the government’s voice plan patronising and a form of assimilation.

Some were really getting into the spirit, donning Australian flag boardshorts and Akubras

Some were really getting into the spirit, donning Australian flag boardshorts and Akubras

Tatts not how you do it: one man stops pushing to pose for a photo

Tatts not how you do it: one man stops pushing to pose for a photo 

The other staple of the Australia Day BBQ - the Esky (chilly bin if you're a New Zealander or 'cooler' to the Americans) was also dusted off from many a garage and brought out for the day

The other staple of the Australia Day BBQ – the Esky (chilly bin if you’re a New Zealander or ‘cooler’ to the Americans) was also dusted off from many a garage and brought out for the day

Beachgoers and their dogs enjoying the surf at the Gold Coast on Thursday as thousands attended protests in capital cities

Beachgoers and their dogs enjoying the surf at the Gold Coast on Thursday as thousands attended protests in capital cities

Triple whammy: Australian flag, jetski and and an Esky - a late contender for Australian of the Year?

Triple whammy: Australian flag, jetski and and an Esky – a late contender for Australian of the Year?

‘This is like a paternalistic attitude, all the time, of telling us, ‘We know what’s best for you people and we will tell you what’s right’,’ he said.

‘We don’t want to be assimilated into a constitution written by white people.’

Ngambri and Ngunnawal woman Leah House labelled the proposed voice as ‘crumbs’, ‘f***ing uncompelling’, ‘vague’ and ‘a distraction from what our ancestors and elders have been fighting for’.

‘Why the f*** would we accept our political role in this country as an advisory body… not as a decision-maker?’ she asked.

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