Guardian Essential poll reveals growing support for changing the date of Australia Day

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Richard Milnes/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Richard Milnes/Rex/Shutterstock

Nearly 60% of respondents support changing the day or keeping it and establishing a separate day to recognise Indigenous Australians

Australians could be warming to the idea of changing the date of Australia Day to recognise Indigenous peoples, or keeping 26 January but establishing a separate day for that purpose, according to the Guardian Essential poll.

The latest survey of 1,028 voters finds 57% of respondents would either support changing the day or keeping the traditional date with another day to better acknowledge and respect the continuous occupation of First Nations people – which is a four-point shift from attitudes in 2021.

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Australia Day is controversial because 26 January marks the day the first fleet arrived in Sydney cove in 1788 – beginning the process of Indigenous dispossession.

As well as evolving community attitudes about the date, the latest Guardian Essential poll suggests a shift in mindset about the current lived reality for Indigenous Australians.

The data shows fewer people think conditions have improved for Indigenous Australians during the past 10 years. In 2021, 48% of respondents said they believed things were better, but in 2022, this is down to 36%.

Asked how they would be marking Australia Day, 50% of respondents said they felt the national day was just another public holiday (down from 53% who expressed that view last year), while 27% said they would be holding a celebration to mark the occasion (down from 29% in 2021). A minority of respondents (7%) said they would be working on 26 January.

In the run-up to the national holiday, the Morrison government confirmed the Aboriginal flag can now be reproduced on apparel and merchandise after it secured copyright – resolving a complicated legal dispute over the use of the emblem.

The government paid more than $20m to obtain the copyright to the flag and terminated commercial licenses owned by companies which had limited the reproduction of the symbol.

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On the eve of the Australia Day holiday, the Labor leader Anthony Albanese told the National Press Club Australia could not look to the future without also reflecting on the past, “including injustice to First Nations people”.

“Until a nation acknowledges the full truth of its history, it will be burdened by its unspoken weight,” Albanese said. “We must acknowledge the wrongs, learn from them, and look for ways of healing”.

Albanese said Australia needed to keep “heading down the path to become a country deeply proud of being home to the oldest continuous cultures on Earth – a nation that takes up the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its gracious, patient, call for Voice, Treaty and Truth”.

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