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NSW: Australia Day date divides nation by celebrating invasion

23 Jan 2009 11:46 AM

SYDNEY, Jan 23 AAP - The Council of Aboriginal Reconciliation has renewed calls for the date of Australia Day to be changed, saying that for many indigenous people January 26 is considered "invasion day".

January 26 marks the anniversary of the establishment of the first permanent European settlement in Australia in 1788.

But many indigenous people regard Australia Day as marking the commencement of the white invasion of Aboriginal land.

Settling on an alternative date would be a significant step towards truly reconciling Australia, NSW Aboriginal Land Council chairwoman Bev Manton said on Friday.

"Australia is still very much the lucky country," Ms Manton said in a statement.

"But until we settle on an alternative date for Australia Day ... Aboriginal people will always feel excluded given their strong feelings that January 26 was invasion day, the beginning of the philosophy of terra nullius - an unoccupied Australia.

"As the first Australians, we certainly believe it is entirely inappropriate to celebrate the arrival of the First Fleet as Australia Day."

Ms Manton called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to deliver on his pre-election promise and implement the recommendations made by the council, including a date change.

"I believe now is the time to again raise this issue," she said.

"I call on the prime minister to initiate this debate in his first report to federal parliament next month on the steps taken by his government to close the gap between Aboriginal Australians and their fellow Australians."