Shock verdict on Australia Day date push

Fewer than one-third of Australians support changing the date of Australia Day from January 26, while nearly half oppose the controversial move, new polling suggests.

The Ipsos poll of 1222 people nationally, conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, found only 28 per cent agreed with the campaign by some Indigenous activists, 48 per cent were opposed and 24 per cent were on the fence.

The country's national day is celebrated on January 26 to commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson, founding the colony of New South Wales. For some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, so-called "Invasion Day" represents the start of dispossession at the hands of European settlers.

Calls to change the date have grown in volume over the past five years - often on the national broadcaster ABC - despite repeated polls finding mainstream Australians overwhelmingly opposed to the idea.

The Ipsos poll found younger Australians were more likely to support changing the date, with 47 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 backing the move compared with 19 per cent of those aged over 55.

Greens voters were far more likely to support moving the date at 67 per cent support, compared with just 31 per cent of Labor and 23 per cent of Coalition voters.

People in regional and rural areas were more against the idea, with 58 per cent opposed compared with 42 per cent of those living in metropolitan areas.

RELATED: Possible alternative dates we could celebrate Australia Day

Out of all respondents, 82 per cent said they felt proud to be an Australian while just 3 per cent said they felt ashamed.

Forty-one per cent said they believed changing the date was important to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians, but 35 per cent said it was not important.

Asked to what extent they thought Indigenous Australians face racism today, 19 per cent said all the time, 35 per cent said frequently, 28 per cent said occasionally and 10 per cent said they don't face racism.

Despite the lack of support for changing the date, 49 per cent said they thought it was likely Australia Day would be moved within the next 10 years, while 41 per cent said it was unlikely.

Ipsos director Jessica Elgood told Nine Newspapers that the fact one-quarter of respondents did not have a view on changing the date showed it was not an issue at the front of mind for many people.

"There's further for the campaign to go in terms of making those arguments and drawing more people into it," she said.

It comes after an Essential Media poll earlier this month found just 18 per cent of respondents supported a separate national day to recognise Indigenous Australians that would replace Australia Day, while 35 per cent were in favour of the idea if Australia Day was left alone.

The Essential poll of 1084 people found 35 per cent did not support the creation of a separate day. It also highlighted a growing number who said they treated Australia Day as just another public holiday.

RELATED: 'Changing Australia Day won't help Indigenous people'

 

A 2020 Invasion Day rally in Brisbane. Picture: Darren England/AAP
A 2020 Invasion Day rally in Brisbane. Picture: Darren England/AAP

 

Meanwhile, another poll published by the Institute of Public Affairs suggested 69 per cent of Australians support January 26, while just 11 per cent think the date should be changed - a number that has remained largely steady for four years.

The poll of 1038 Australians, conducted by Dynata, also found 82 per cent were "proud to be an Australian".

"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 conservative think tank, 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."

On Sunday, the ABC was roundly criticised for an online story and accompanying tweet that referred to January 26 interchangeably as "Australia Day" and "Invasion Day".

RELATED: MP slammed over call for minute's silence on January 26

The article described Australia Day as "one of the most polarising dates on the Australian calendar".

"January 26 marks Australia Day or Invasion Day, typically seen as a celebration of the nation or a day of sorrow for the colonisation of an ancient culture," it said.

"For many First Nations people, it is a day to mourn the past and galvanise the community to address ongoing systemic racial injustice. For others, it's a chance to spend time with family and friends at the beach or around barbecues."

 

An ABC spokeswoman told The Australian that while the "default terminology" at the broadcaster remained Australia Day, "we also recognise and respect that community members use other terms for the event, including '26 January', 'Invasion Day' and 'Survival Day', so our reporting and coverage reflect that".

"Given the variety of terms in use, and the different perspectives on the day that the ABC is going to cover over the course of the long weekend, it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts," she said.

frank.chung@news.com.au

 

Originally published as Shock verdict on Australia Day date push


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