Street poll: an Indigenous Day holiday?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s proposal for a national day to celebrate indigenous peoples, culture and heritage has drawn a mixed response from politicians and the public.

Members of Parliament have already lined up on different sides on the issue.

Special envoy for indigenous affairs and former prime minister Tony Abbott disagreed with the proposal while Liberal frontbencher and Aboriginal Australian Ken Wyatt supported the concept.

Mixed public attitudes were reflected in a Newsbytes poll in Sydney, where we asked people what they thought of the idea.

One Sydney woman, June Jeffery, welcomed the idea as an alternative if Australia Day couldn’t be changed.

“I don’t agree with Australia Day as is, but this is a good alternative if we can’t change the date,” she said.

Gerard Baz said “On the surface it sounds like it mightn’t be a bad idea,” while some respondents turned the issue to Australia Day itself.

“Australia Day should be abolished,” said Zac Seidle.

“Any day that’s causing problems for any population I think should be discussed,” he said.

Alternatively, Janelle Holland supported the continuance of Australia Day: “I love Australia Day, I think it’s one of the best days in the calendar… we celebrate Australia of today. So, I would not like to lose that day.”

A recurring issue raised by our respondents was whether Aboriginals had been consulted about the concept.

Sally Anne Louw said: “If the Indigenous Australians feel it’s important then one has to do the right thing by them.”

“I would like to ask the Aboriginal Australians how they feel about that. Do they want a day that is their day?” asked Ms Holland.

The same could be asked of the Byron Shire Council before they decided to move their citizenship ceremonies to 25th January next year which led to Mr Morrison stripping the council of its ceremonial privileges and his Indigenous day proposal.

A spokeswoman for The Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arakwal) said: “We were consulted very, very briefly… but the board hasn’t met since the announcement… It has nothing to do with the Arakwal people.”

The corporation is expected to discuss the council’s decision this Saturday during a scheduled board meeting, the spokeswoman said.

Mr Morrison has accused Byron Council of indulging in self-loathing, telling Channel Seven’s Sunrise: “We don’t have to pull Australia Day down to actually recognise the achievements of indigenous Australians.”

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