ABC’s Australia Day language slammed as ‘divisive’
The ABC has been accused of dividing the nation by referring to Australia Day as "Invasion Day" in an online guide for events happening on January 26, while Police Minister David Elliott has slammed the national broadcaster for promoting a protest which organisers expect to breach COVID-19 gathering rules.
A piece published on the ABC News website yesterday said "January 26 marks Australia Day or Invasion Day, typically seen as a celebration of the nation or a day of sorrow for the colonisation of an ancient culture".
An accompanying tweet said: "What to do on Australia Day/Invasion Day in 2021".
That terminology was criticised yesterday by Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt.
What to do on Australia Day/Invasion Day in 2021 https://t.co/U1BhUjFcZf— ABC News (@abcnews) January 23, 2021
"Minister Wyatt believes that 26 January should be referred to as Australia Day," a spokesman said.
"This Australia Day we should walk together, side-by-side, as one to reflect, respect and celebrate all that makes us Australian - Indigenous and non-Indigenous."
Indigenous leader and formal Liberal candidate Warren Mundine said the terminology threatened to divide the nation.
"(Australia Day) should be a day that unites us," he said.
Mr Mundine said the "history of January 26" can't be disputed, but said the nation should "stop focusing on things that divide us (and) focus on the real issues and making them better".
However Labor's Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Linda Burney said "the (ABC) article reflects the growing awareness of the complexities around January 26 in our community".
Former boxing champion Anthony Mundine went as far as calling for Australia Day to be abolished once and for all.
He said for many Indigenous Australians, January 26 is a painful reminder of the nation's dark history, including genocide and rape.
The outspoken sports star will likely mark the day by going to a "Survival Day ceremony", he said.
The ABC on Sunday issued a statement to declare its "default terminology" for the national day remains "Australia Day" but its reporting also reflects other names commonly used.
"Given the variety of terms in use, and the different perspectives on the day … it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts," advice given to ABC program teams states.
The broadcaster's guide to events taking place on Tuesday included a protest set down for Tuesday morning in the Domain which is set to go ahead without police authorisation.
Organiser Raul Bassi has not yet submitted the required forms to ensure the Invasion Day rally is "authorised", because he expects the gathering to exceed current COVID gathering limits.
Protests in Sydney are currently capped at 500 people, but more than 6,000 people have said they are "going" or "interested" in attending, according to a Facebook event for the protest.
A COVID-safe plan will be in place for the protest, including asking guests to register, and organisers completing temperature checks, Mr Bassi said.
Mr Elliott said that "unfortunately" all public gatherings will be restricted on Australia Day this year.
"As heartbreaking as that is we just can't afford to give one group preferential treatment over another without putting participants at an unnecessary risk," he said.
The ABC's "Australia Day/Invasion Day" events guide published by the national broadcaster cited the Domain protest as "one of the biggest Invasion Day events" slated for Tuesday.
The Police Minister said promoting the event was "breathtakingly irresponsible".
An ABC spokeswoman said the broadcaster is not "'promoting' anything".
"It is reporting on a range of major planned events around Australia," the spokeswoman said.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the national broadcaster's position on Australia Day "is a matter for which the ABC must take accountability".
"The ABC, by statute, has editorial independence from government," he said.
Originally published as ABC's Australia Day language slammed as 'divisive'