SHOW SOME RESPECT: Aboriginal dancers embrace after performing at Barangaroo Reserve as part of Australia Day celebrations in Sydney last year. Columnist Lesley Apps believes a date change is the least we can do for indigenous Australians.
SHOW SOME RESPECT: Aboriginal dancers embrace after performing at Barangaroo Reserve as part of Australia Day celebrations in Sydney last year. Columnist Lesley Apps believes a date change is the least we can do for indigenous Australians. BRENDAN ESPOSITO

Changing a date is the least we can do

IT'S mind-boggling that something promoted as an inclusive, pride-inducing celebration of Australia results in the opposite reaction from a growing number of people.

The reasons why this momentum is increasing is being pointed out more loudly and articulately every passing year.

Any sensible person would think, "Geez, maybe we should start to really listen," but in the tradition of Basil Fawlty's "don't mention the war" our government would rather stick their fingers in their ears and sing "nah nah nah" before letting anything disrupt their party of the year.

That kind of defiance must hark back to our British roots, arrogance with a barb of spite that seems unfathomable after the trail of oppression we left behind for them to navigate.

If they are not willing to change a fairly new date and day off in our history because it hurts the oldest continuous culture on the planet, then what kind of message are we sending them other than more disrespect and ostracism?

It's surprising there hasn't been a revolt before now but that's probably down to the peaceful and obviously patient nature of our First Nation's people, a temperament that ultimately sealed their fate after the British arrived.

But patience is wearing thin as government after government can't seem to get it right, even when a simple opportunity to start setting a new tone, like a respectful date change, is flagged and ignored under the guise of a political stunt.

Successive governments' handling of indigenous affairs and reconciliation is mirrored in the attitudes of the society in which it governs and going on the toxic commentary out there that's pretty damning evidence they've done a s---house job.

So while the argument about one calendar day continues to ruffle the white Australia agenda, the significance of making this change is relatively small by comparison to what really needs to be done before we can truly start celebrating as a united nation.

If women are on the front line of fighting for equality here and across the globe, our indigenous people (who deserve their own #timesup and #metoo hashtags when it comes to racism) are probably still somewhere in those far-flung trenches, the first few soldiers popping their heads up in the 1960s to have a look around.

A handful of brave souls charged in early and gained some ground - Eddie Mabo quite literally - but generally the ones that got somewhere had to negotiate a wall of white hierarchy who sat comfortably back at the barracks delivering all the orders.

It's a battle that has a big, fat 200-year-old Band-Aid stuck on it as token and symbolic gestures have been applied here and there over the decades to keep the festering wound at bay, with no sign of any real healing likely to appear on the horizon any time soon.

To do that would require ripping that sticking point off and applying some genuine Australian equality through a legal treaty, the social antibiotic this wound needs to start healing.

It's something that should have already happened but hasn't.

Until then, how can we expect a group that are treated like second-class citizens by law to feel validated by their own country?

Just ask the LGTBI community what a legal decision can do for the human psyche.

There is so much contradiction around our national day, is it any wonder it is ripe for pillorying, the barrage of comedians exposing hypocrisy after hypocrisy and we cringe and laugh our way through this uncomfortable climate.

How can we talk about a fair go, feeling inclusive and instilling pride when we remain the only country in the Commonwealth without a treaty that officially recognises its first peoples as equals?

Being recognised in our Constitution is symbolic but without a treaty it does nothing to advance or empower our indigenous population to a level white people take for granted. That's racism in the purist sense.

So it's appalling we continue to celebrate our greatness, our achievements, under the shadow of a demeaning lack of legislation, a chance to give some pride back to the people we crushed beyond recognition across our 230-year-old white history.

It's shameful in this day and age to be at this point but plenty of the "get over it" brigade won't have a patriotic grain of that. To them it's in the past and any repercussions since are "not their fault".

Anyway it's un-Australian to change anything about this nation that is unequivocally geared in their favour.

They love to cherry-pick indigenous people with single agendas to justify their reasoning, people whose personal resilience and openness to be 10 times better before dutifully accepting our white ways used as the pin-up Aborigines to their solution.

With this onus on indigenous people to let it go, there's no need to dredge up past atrocities even if they're not sure what they are. "Lest We Forget" is a one-trick pony in this country.

But that's understandable given most of those "past wrongs" have never officially been acknowledged in any meaningful way beyond a quick Welcome to Country here and there, a very belated "sorry" for stealing your kids, highly conditional land rights and a certain Northern Territory intervention that's trampled Aboriginal rights since 2007.

Despite these miserly offerings in the grand scheme of invading and trying to breed out one of the planet's most ancient cultures, we are extended gratitude and diplomatic thanks for being so kind. But that well is drying up.

So be prepared for more where that came from, as the wound continues to be reopened year after year and we party like it's 1788 and scratch our heads with bewilderment as we wonder why they won't get over it.

If continuing to point this out year after year amid this week of patriotic gusto is un-Australian, then so be it.

I'm starting to see that term as more of a compliment lately.

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