Council cancels Australia Day fireworks, creates metaphorical fireworks


A Western Australian city council goes full Invasion Day:

The council at Fremantle, about 30 minutes from Perth, decided on Wednesday night to cancel its annual fireworks display next year and beyond out of respect to indigenous people.

“There has been a growing movement that January 26 is increasingly becoming a day that is ‘not for all Australians’. For many Aboriginal Australians it is indeed a day of sadness and dispossession,” Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said.

“This does not just refer to indigenous involvement but the involvement of many other Australians who feel increasingly uncomfortable with the date and what it represents.

“The city has received significant feedback supporting the idea of reimagining our Australia Day celebrations from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.”

Mr Pettitt said he was proud of the council move and hopes it will make Australia Day become more inclusive and respectful.

Couldn’t they just make the fireworks sad?

Labor’s Indigenous Affairs spokesman Ben Wyatt (and himself Indigenous), to his credit, thinks that the council decision might have more to do with cost cutting that “respect to indigenous people”, and calls it “a facile response and likely to cause more division.” Local Indigenous affairs activist Corina Abraham, on the other hand, says that the council’s decision is right and “we need another day that brings us together in unity, where we all feel proud. What day that is could be an issue for the Prime Minister.”

The problem is, there is no meaningful historical anniversary that will make everyone happy. Most of Australia’s milestones simply did not include and involve Aboriginal people as such. If, as the opponents of Australia Day, you believe that celebrating on the anniversary of the First Fleet landing, which has led to colonisation of the continent and the dispossession of the first Australians, is wrong and insensitive, pretty much any other important historical date will be equally wrong and insensitive, as it flows from that colonisation and dispossession. That includes, for example, the Federation of Australia in 1901, which has the additional disadvantage of being celebrated on 1 January, which is already a holiday. The alternative, plucking a more or less a random date for “another day that brings us together in unity, where we all feel proud” will be meaningless, being unimbued with any tradition and memory.

There is no historical anniversary or celebration anywhere in the world that would have everyone happy with it. Hence, the only question is to what extent you try to balance the majority and the minority concerns. In our culture and history wars, the left generally (to use their own terminology) privileges minorities, however small, and is prepared to give them a veto power. Personally, I’m not a big fan of changing society in an attempt to humour smaller and smaller disgruntled groups.