"AUSTRALIA was the only country started without a war."
The teacher performed a slow half- turn at the head of the classroom to take us all in and repeated the proclamation with a broad smile.
Australia was the only country started without a war.
Not sure about it being the only country, my primary school teacher being the type who used words like "country" and "people" in a way that included some but specifically excluded others, but the rest of the statement is technically correct.
There was no war.
There was killing, sure, and plenty of it: the Aboriginal population declined by more than 80 per cent after European arrival, through a mixture of disease and massacres.
But it wasn't war, because it wasn't official.
To declare war would have been to acknowledge a kind of equality, or at least mutual agency, between the parties.
No, what started Australia was slaughter.
And I'm trying to figure out why that's supposed to be better.
Sunday marks the 226th year since Governor Phillip planted the Union Jack at the new settlement of Sydney and decided to ignore his stated orders to form a treaty with the natives rather than just take over the place.
Reminding people of the significance of the date, and that many call it Invasion Day and are sickened by those celebrating it, is an easy way to get shouted down to cries of "Un-Australian!" and pelted beer cans.
But that's what happened.
Tying an Australian flag around your shoulders won't change the fact that Tasmania's "full blood" Aboriginal population went from 6000 to none within a few years of occupation.
Getting a Southern Cross tattoo will not make an official government policy so blatantly eugenic it was known colloquially as the "f--k them white" policy anything less than genocide.
And stamping "Made in Australia" on your chest will not change the fact that people waiting to be sworn in as citizens on Australia Day have exactly the same right to be here as you do, which is lesser by a factor of 40,000 years than an indigenous Australian's claim.
The debate about moving the date has started again this year and, as in previous years, it has been dismissed.
And instead of teaching people the broader history of Australia, to help people understand why Australia Day hurts so much, the federal government has decided to review a national history curriculum so new the ink is still wet to ensure a proper focus on European and colonial Australian history.
It's hard to see why that's necessary.
We learned all about Burke and Wills in school. No one told me about Myall Creek.
A primary school trip to Canberra saw another teacher tell my class that the tent embassy was erected to appease Aborigines who had felt left out, rather than as a reminder of one of the cleverest, most persistent and most effective protests in Australian history.
It's one thing to have a national day intended to bring people together and celebrate the complex human mess that makes up our communities.
But the thin sliver of Australiana currently celebrated on January 26 is built on exclusion, an aggressive army of flags and southern cross tattoos that proclaims: This is Australia, and to hell with any who don't like it.
Well, I don't like it.
And indigenous Australians don't like it.
And non-white people threatened by packs of shirtless bros on the beach don't like it.
Hating Australia Day or wishing it were celebrated differently is not un-Australian, any more than wearing green and gold thongs makes you more Australian.
So before you don your warpaint or stick paper flags on your car this weekend, stop and think.
What is it you're celebrating?
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