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Australia Day is about our horrible past, so why change?

Sky presenter Paul Murray.
Sky presenter Paul Murray. Robert Edwards

How did we get to a place where so much time is wasted trying to trash Australia Day?

Everyone knows Aboriginal people were here for tens of thousands of years before Europeans arrived.

There isn't a thinking person in Australia who doesn't understand the brutality that followed, the segregation and legal discrimination that continued shamefully until the 1990s.

Australia is not alone in having a troubled past -- virtually every nation struggles with its past.

My question is why are so many obsessed with ignoring the modernity that also came on the First Fleet? A modernity that carries us to this day and beyond.

Does anyone else see the irony of politicians posturing about the impact of having our national day on January 26, when the very parliaments and local councils they participate in are a direct consequence of that modernity?

Again, I am not ignoring or downplaying the violent impact and suffering of the Indigenous peoples following European arrival. In fact, I have long argued that we need to replace the Queen's Birthday with a national day to commemorate Aboriginal achievements, to inspire future descendants of our first peoples to write bold new chapters in our national story.

I suggest Mabo Day, to mark when an Indigenous man used European law to overturn the disgraceful Terra Nullius doctrine.

My problem is with the people who live with all the trappings of 21st-century society that celebrates much trumpeted 'diversity', with all its technologies, comfort, formal education, medicine and representative government who seek to ignore the undeniable strides we have made since our troubled past.

We have to understand any date for Australia Day is problematic without an adjoining day to specifically recognise and celebrate Aboriginal Australia.

I deliberately chose those two words to describe the adjoining day because we need to build on the achievements of the past rather than try to make someone, anyone, everyone atone for events we all are deeply troubled by, yet can do nothing about.

No-one wants to ignore the past, but we can't change the past. We can, however, shape a new future, together. One where we understand the past, learn it in all its ugliness but choose not to only wallow in the negative.

We must understand that our national story is a shared one and has to include the men and women who shaped a land of bush into the place we all call home today.

Australia Day isn't white pride day, it's not being willfully ignorant of Aboriginal Australia. It is a day where thousands of people choose to take our citizenship. It is a day where we welcome those new faces and remind ourselves of the great gift we got by being born here.

I honestly wish the effort we put into debating symbols was put into helping all Australians of all histories and heritage who are left behind and suffer in the current age.

We owe the past the truth, in all its ugliness. But we also owe the future hope and a commitment to make the greatest country even better for the generations to come who'll take us into our brightest of days ahead.

Black, White, born here or came here, happy Australia Day.

Paul Murray LIVE returns for 2018 on Monday ( January 22) at 9pm AEDT on Sky News Live, Foxtel Channel 601

Topics:  australia day editors picks massacre opinion paul murray

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