• External Contributor

Another Australian university liberal club, another tone deaf statement

Every year in Australia, a conversation about what the 26th of January means to people revitalises itself. For the La Trobe University Liberal Club - a collection of adolescent white men who congregate at a university campus in inner city Melbourne - it’s a day to celebrate “all Australians” and “our British heritage and institutions that gave us the values of liberty, Christianity and the rule of law.” The irony in their tone deaf statement is too much to handle considering the fact that liberty is the complete opposite of what the British brought to Australia. It’s almost like they've forgotten that to the British, Australia was nothing but a prison colony. Claiming “all Australians'' desire to celebrate their British heritage is complete bullshit.

Many Australians do not have British heritage. Many Australians (almost 40 percent) are also not Christian. Modern Australia is a multicultural Australia, comprising over 200 nationalities. Modern Australia is a secular nation with over 120 faiths. But most importantly, Modern Australia is not a nation that should celebrate a day that represents so much suffering for our First Nations population that still struggle for rights and justice to this day.

The statement on Australia Day from the Liberal Club goes on to read that there are “a vocal minority of radicals that hate Australia and what we stand for.” To be frank, it is not just a minority of radicals that believe that the 26th of January is not an appropriate day to celebrate Australia. Many of us do love Australia, and therefore believe that our country can do better.

The statement also reads that the British brought liberal democracy to Australia. Well, perhaps to the surprise of this enlightened Liberal Club, what the British brought was a limited democracy system where only white male landowners over the age of 21 could cast a ballet. This meant that only around 3 percent of the population could vote for almost half of colonial Australia’s history. A true liberal democracy did not arrive in Australia until 1962 when Indigenous Australians were given suffrage.

Last, but certainly not least, the final paragraph of their Australia Day message was to remind their 640 Facebook followers that western civilisation was “distinct” from other civilisations. While it is not only racist to suggest that the West is superior to the Orient, it is also simply not true. Complex political and social systems have existed across the world for its entire existence, and it's not just the West who became “enlightened.” Indigenous Australians lived complex lives, rich in knowledge of nature, health, agriculture, science, history and spirituality. They protected Australia for over 50,000 years. Their scientific knowledge of this country far exceeds that of any individual who arrived on this land after 1788.

In reality, the 26th of January never marked the commencement of “Australia”; it marked the commencement of British settlement on the continent. Australia is no longer British. Australia has forged a new multiethnic identity, and it’s this identity that we should celebrate. As a message to the La Trobe University Club, perhaps a more useful use of your time would be to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and maybe take a history class.

Here is the full post by the La Trobe University Liberal Club, from January 26, 2020.