PROMINENT Tasmanian Aboriginal lawyer and activist Michael Mansell says he cannot morally accept an Australia Day award nomination because the day is inextricably linked to the invasion of Australia by white settlers.
Mr Mansell is a finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year award for his dedication to ``social, political and legal reform to improve the lives of Tasmanian indigenous people''.
But he said he could not in good conscience accept it or the Tasmanian nomination because it was a key part of the Australia Day celebrations, which was a race-based day that ``marks the coming to Australia of whites''.
``Australia has not once apologised, and meant it, for the invasion of Aboriginal lands,'' he said.
``There has been no acknowledgment of the massacres that remain hidden under a `pioneers' version of Australian history.
``There is no effort to genuinely undo the wrongs that still affect Aboriginal people today.''
Mr Mansell said he was not concerned that his public rejection of the award would lead to a backlash from some sections of the community.
``I think it's important that when something isn't right, people speak up about it,'' he told Fairfax Media.
He said other countries such as the US and New Zealand would not have national days that coincided with the day settlers invaded the land of indigenous peoples.
``There is a growing movement of people who believe that celebrating on January 26 is the wrong date because it is a race-based celebration and that is not appropriate,'' he said.
``It is one thing to acknowledge the fact of invasion; it is quite another to celebrate it.''
Mr Mansell also said other Aboriginal leaders who had accepted Australia Day awards in the past were ``star-struck'' and had abandoned principles for personal glory.
``In my opinion, any person (not just Aboriginals) who accepts these nominations without condemnation of the essence of Australia Day celebrations, lacks a social conscience,'' he said.
``There may come a time when it is legitimate for Aborigines to accept these nominations: when a treaty has been made between Aborigines and Australia to include land, an Aboriginal Assembly and eight seats in the 150-strong Federal Parliament.''
Until such time, ``while I am grateful for the thoughts behind my nomination, I would be a hypocrite to accept it''.