A controversial “Invasion Day” message blasting January 26 as a celebration for “w**kers” has been slammed as irresponsible.
Images of the graffiti in Adelaide have been circulating on social media, drawing praise from some Indigenous activists and “change the date” proponents but also attracting criticism.
“26th Jan is Invasion Day!” the message reads. “Only w**kers celebrate genocide!”
Dr Anthony Dillon, a researcher at Australian Catholic University and an Indigenous affairs commentator, said this kind of graffiti was dangerous because it could “provoke the extremists” on the right.
“Although 99 per cent of mainstream Aussies will laugh at this and think it’s ridiculous, the very small radical minority will lash out, (will) look at this and think all Aboriginal people are b**tards,” he said.
More broadly, however, Dr Dillon said this kind of rhetoric “chips away” at the “enormous amount of goodwill for Aboriginal people in this country” – and could have the unintended consequence of making the public less receptive to concerns about genuine issues.
“Perhaps when you do have a legitimate protest, people will ignore it because they’ve seen this,” he said.
“Invasion Day” rallies have grown in popularity over the past five years, drawing thousands of attendees in cities around the country amid calls to change the date – or even to abolish the occasion altogether.
Some of the rallies have been marred by far-right counter-protesters, including neo-Nazis.
Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 each year to mark the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in 1788.
The term “Invasion Day” came into use in the 1980s, but calls to change the date only began to gain mainstream traction in 2015 when the first rally was held in Melbourne.
ABC youth radio station Triple J delivered the movement a major boost in 2017 with the announcement that it would be moving its traditional Hottest 100 countdown from Australia Day.
Still, polling finds the overwhelming majority of Australians support keeping Australia Day on January 26.
A new survey released on Monday by the Institute of Public Affairs suggests 69 per cent of Australians support January 26, while just 11 per cent think the date should be changed.
It’s the fourth year the conservative think tank has run the same poll, and while it is the lowest so far – last year the number who supported Australia Day being celebrated on January 26 was 71 per cent, and it was previously as high as 75 per cent – the percentage of people wanting to change the date has remained largely unchanged.
“Despite the tired narrative being pushed by a minority of activists to change the date, support for their cause has not moved,” Dr Bella d’Abrera, Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the IPA, said in a statement.
“Australians have had enough of being told that they need to be ashamed of their country, and that it is wrong to celebrate its success.”
The poll of 1038 Australians, conducted by Dynata, also found 82 per cent were “proud to be an Australian”, 73 per cent agreed Australia has a “history to be proud of”, 72 per cent believe Australia Day “is an authentic way for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to celebrate being Australian”, and 86 per cent said the holiday “should be an opportunity to respect the contribution that everyone has, and can, make to Australia”.
“Mainstream Australians are fundamentally optimistic and positive about Australia and its values,” said Dr d’Abrera. “Celebrating Australia Day should unite all Australians.”
Dr Dillon said he believed the “average Aussie just wants the day left alone”.
“Because there is absolutely nobody who is celebrating genocide on that day,” he said. “They’re having BBQs and throwing a frisbee.”
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