As major companies opt out of celebrating Australia’s national day, opposition leader Peter Dutton is calling on citizens to be proud of their heritage, not ashamed of it.
Australia Day, Jan. 26, marks a public holiday that commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney in 1788, which eventually led to the first European settlement being established in the country.
Yet as cancel culture—and diversity and inclusivity practices—take hold in Western democratic societies, some of Australia’s largest businesses have opted to “cancel” their traditional Australia Day celebrations.
Just last week, retail giant Kmart decided to stop producing a specific Australia Day product line.
“We respect that Jan. 26 means different things to different people, and we aim to foster an environment that is inclusive and respectful of both our customers and teams,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“However, customers who shop with us can find a number of products year-round that feature Australiana designs with Australian animals, flora and fauna, as well as educational materials.”
Kmart would also be giving employees the choice of working on the traditional public holiday.
Major Firms Line Up to Sideline Australia Day
Other companies that have adopted a similar practice regarding working on Australia Day include supermarket giant Woolworths, Australia’s largest telecommunications firm Telstra, Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst and Young, and CBS-owned Channel 10.
In December, the content chief of Channel 10, Beverley McGarvey, told staff that it was “not a day of celebration.”
“At Paramount ANZ, we aim to create a safe place to work where cultural differences are appreciated, understood, and respected,” according to a letter to staff.
“For our First Nations people, we as an organisation acknowledge that Jan. 26 is not a day of celebration. We recognise that there has been a turbulent history, particularly around that date and the recognition of that date being Australia Day.”
In January 2022, media outlets reported an internal email from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade telling employees to “educate” themselves on Australia’s history during the colonial era.
“It should not be left solely to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to acknowledge the realities of their histories and what this date means,” the email said.
Yet Indigenous academic Anthony Dillon has argued that there is no “practical benefit” in renaming or erasing Australia Day, calling it “virtue signalling.”
“For those who want to use Australia Day as an opportunity to claim to be suffering and oppressed, can you please take some time out to spare a thought for those Aboriginal people who are genuinely suffering because they are hungry, live in unclean environments, and feel unsafe?” he wrote in The Epoch Times.
“Perhaps my biggest reservation for changing the date is that to do so sends a very disempowering message to those who claim they are suffering because of it.”
Celebrate Our History, Don’t Erase it: Opposition Leader
Meanwhile, opposition leader Peter Dutton said Australians should be proud of their heritage.
“We’ve got a very proud Indigenous heritage, English heritage, and multicultural heritage,” he told reporters on Jan. 23.
“There are 10s of millions of people who would want to come to Australia tomorrow. So, we shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed by who we are. We should be proud of who we are.
“We don’t need to tear down one part of our history to build up the other—let’s work together as a nation, make sure we respect the good and the bad of our history,” he said.
Nina Nguyen contributed to this article.