Australia PM says no to national day date change

By Agencies in Sydney | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-27 07:56

The date of Australia's national day should not be changed, the prime minister said Thursday, as thousands of protesters marred celebrations on the day that commemorates the arrival of the country's first British colonists in Sydney Harbor on Jan 26, 1788.

The British never acknowledged the land was owned by the Aborigines and the lack of any treaty has long been a source of division.

Thousands of protesters took part in largely peaceful "Invasion Day" rallies in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, while hundreds staged a sit-in outside Parliament House in the national capital, Canberra.

"Everyone is entitled to a point of view, but I think most Australians accept Jan 26 as Australia Day," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

"It is a day where we celebrate the rich diversity of all of our cultures."

Ian Macfarlane, a former minister in Turnbull's government who retired from politics last year, became a rare conservative voice to call for the date to be changed.

He suggested Australia's national day commemorate March 1, 1901. On that date, a newly created Australian federal government took over many of the functions of the six British colonies that preceded it.

"It's about healing a wound, drawing a line, getting on with the really important issues facing our indigenous communities," Macfarlane said in a speech in Melbourne.

"I believe that all Australians celebrating our great country on a date not associated with past wrongs can only bring us closer," he wrote in a column for The Australian.

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