Aussie attitudes towards Australia Day complex, despite majority support for current date

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Australian Government Community Indigenous & Heritage Lifestyle Surveys & Your Say


A new survey via the Social Research Centre’s Life in Australia™ research panel reveals that despite a clear majority of Australians wanting Australia Day to remain on 26 January, attitudes towards the public holiday are complex and nuanced.

While 70 percent of Australians think the current date should stay put, 45 percent believe the date is offensive to Indigenous Australians. Even among those who agree with holding Australia Day on 26 January, some 29 percent still acknowledge the offensiveness of the date.

For those who want to see the date changed, the most popular alternative is Reconciliation Day on 27 May (nominated by 24%), followed by Federation Day on 1 January (18%).

CEO of the Social Research Centre and survey report co-author Darren Pennay, believes there are other factors at play when it comes to Australians’ strong support for 26 January.

“One school of thought suggests that Australians place a high value on the current date because it is an important marker in the calendar and the last summer public holiday before the school year starts again,” Pennay says.

This view is supported by an earlier national poll revealing that the three words Australians most commonly associate with Australia Day are “barbeque,” “celebration” and “holiday.”

“For some people, the desirability of an end of January public holiday – and the lack of an alternative date around the same time of year – seems to outweigh the offence caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” says Pennay.

The survey also explores which aspects of Australia’s culture and heritage are thought to be most strongly associated with Australia Day celebrations on 26 January.

It finds two-thirds (68%) of Australians agree that having our national day on 26 January celebrates our British culture and heritage; 63% believe that the current timing is a celebration of our democracy and system of government; and 58% believe that the current arrangements celebrate the contribution of all immigrants to Australia; but only a minority (40%) believe that 26 January celebrates our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.

Just one in four (24%) agreed with all four positions – that the current arrangement successfully celebrates our British history, migrant contribution, democracy, and our Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander heritage.

“There is an acknowledgement that when it comes to being seen as inclusive of Indigenous Australians, current celebrations have some way to go,” Pennay says.

“With both major parties declaring that the date of Australia Day won’t be moving any time soon, the combination of attitudes uncovered in this survey seem likely to ensure that the day remains one of disagreement and debate,” he finishes.

Life in Australia™ is owned and operated by the Social Research Centre. It is Australia’s only probability-based online panel and one of only several such panels in the world.

The full survey report, is available at BBQs and Black Armbands.

Other key survey findings:
● In terms of sociodemographic characteristics, support for 26 January increases with age being notably lower for the younger generations at 47% and 58% for GenZ and Millennials respectively, increasing to 73% for GenX and 80% amongst Baby Boomers. Amongst the Silent Generation support for 26 January was nearly unanimous (90%).
● Support for 26 January was relatively low among those with a university degree (55%) compared to those without (75%). In terms of geography, support was highest in Western Australia (83%) and lowest in Victoria (65%) and higher in the regions (78%) compared to our capital cities (66%).
● There are also stark differences in the level of support for 26 January as the best day for our national day of celebration by party political affiliation. Support is highest amongst Coalition (85%) and One Nation (94%) supporters compared with 62% among Labor supporters and just 38% among Greens.

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