Australia Day Is a Chance for Unity Over Division

Written by:
24 January 2024
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In this article, Brianna McKee contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into Australians’ attitudes towards Australia Day.

Encouragingly, despite the indoctrination meted out during the formal years of education, young Australians aged 25-34 overwhelmingly support our national day.

The great majority of Australians are proud of their citizenship and heritage. Nor are they in any mood to bow to the wishes of activists and the noisy minority who want Australia Day cancelled.

What is worrying, however, is that young Australians do not share this view.

Only 42 percent of those aged 18-24 support Australia Day on Jan. 26, and 30 percent want to change the date, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs. 

This suggests a rather dismal outlook for the future of the nation and begs the question, does Australia face an existential crisis? 

Jan. 26 is more than a date; it represents the establishment of modern Australia as a country founded on the principles of freedom, fairness, and opportunity.

These values have been fundamental to Australia’s development into the successful and prosperous nation it is today. 

If young Australians cannot support and celebrate the principles of freedom and tolerance upon which our nation was founded, then these principles will over time be lost. 

However, the attitudes of young people towards Australia Day should come as no surprise given the indoctrination taking place in the education sector. 

Primary school students are taught Australia Day is Invasion Day, and Australian History is a voluntary subject for most high school students. 

This process only continues at university, with the Institute of Public Affairs’s (IPA) audit of Australian history subjects finding the most common themes were identity politics and Indigenous history.

Young Australians Value Freedom, Home Ownership

Encouragingly, despite the indoctrination meted out during the formal years of education, once free of these group-think institutions, young Australians aged 25-34 overwhelmingly support our national day, with 61 percent backing Australia Day on Jan. 26.

In further good news, many young Australians believe in the principles our nation was founded upon even if they do not make the connection between those values and Australia Day. 

Recent IPA research revealed young Australians are fundamentally aspirational, with a considered ambition to build a better life for themselves. 

“The Future of Australia: A Survey of the Values and Beliefs of Young Australians 2023,” asked more than 800 young Australians (aged 16-24) about their attitudes towards public policy and found a strong majority aspire to start their own business and own their own home. 

Two-thirds harbour ambitions as future business owners and believe they will own their own home in two decades. Only 1 in 10 either don’t want to own their own home or believe they never will. 

A strong majority also want lower taxes and smaller government even though they understand this will result in fewer public services.

The proportion who supports smaller government with lower taxes and fewer public services has increased from 44 percent in 2016, to 56 percent in 2023.

While often dismissed as the snowflake generation, the IPA’s research shows a large majority of Generation Z have deep reservations about censorship and think extreme political activism has gone too far, particularly on social issues.

Clearly, the Australian values of free speech, free enterprise, and entrepreneurialism are alive and well.

Young people want the things that have made Australia such a great place and which have brought millions of migrants to our shores.

Rot in the Education Sector

The fault then lies with the education system, and its relentless message that the birth and development of modern Australia involved nothing other than invasion and genocide.

One need only look around to see the fallacy of such a message; we live in a society that upholds freedom and fairness, and one in which all of the cultures from which we stem are celebrated—not least the Indigenous.

The fact that our education system militantly refuses to acknowledge, let alone celebrate, the diversity upon which our unity stands is a damning indictment of those politicians—federal and state—who oversee the sector. 

The political class talks a big game about diversity, equity, and inclusion but they refuse to support it when push comes to shove.

This provides an insight into the stifling culture of ideological conformity which has taken over our centres of education and politics. It has nothing to do with true diversity and flies in the face of everything these institutions claim to stand for. 

Perhaps before we change the date, we need to overhaul the National Curriculum and the education sector more broadly, making sure students are presented with a balanced account of our history and cultural heritage. 

The problems in the education sector are compounded by the decisions of those 81 local councils around the country who have cancelled Australia Day festivities and citizenship ceremonies, and big businesses, like Woolworths, which refuse to acknowledge our national day. 

While the silence of our political leaders on these issues is telling, it does present an opportunity for them going forward.

Young voters value homeownership and small business and are sceptical of big government and censorship. Politicians must speak to these issues if they want to engage with Generation Z voters and what better opportunity is there to do so than on Australia Day? 

Jan. 26 is much more than a public holiday. It is an opportunity to reflect on the story of the founding of modern Australia—a narrative which can be harnessed in a manner that speaks not only to young Australians’ lived experience but to their aspirations. It is a day as much about the future as the past. 

Leaders that are willing to support Australia Day and address the priorities of young Australians with a compelling policy offer, will likely find a deep well of support.

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