Changing the date of Australia Day is not needed and Aboriginal Australians should “let go and forgive”, former independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie says.
Ms Lambie, who claims Aboriginal heritage, weighed into the debate around potentially changing the date of Australia Day after the Australian Greens pledged to support any Greens councillors who wished to campaign for shifting celebrations to a different day.
In 2016, the Yarra, Darebin and Fremantle councils moved to shift events in their jurisdictions to another date, while Flinders council in Tasmania axed its celebrations in 2013.
Hobart City Council has also moved to support a date change, but will continue offering its citizenship ceremony on January 26.
Ms Lambie resigned from the Federal Parliament in November due to holding dual citizenship, after Fairfax Media reported that her father was born in Scotland.
Her party, the Jacqui Lambie Network, is hoping to win seats at the upcoming state election.
Ms Lambie said Australia Day was “a day to stand united as one”.
“Every time a minority group opens their mouth there seems to be submission to the demand. Why do the majority have to bend over backwards for a vocal minority?” she said.
“This is so straight down the line – no change to the day.
“It’s not needed and … won’t right the wrongs of previous centuries.”
Ms Lambie said she found the push to change the date “distasteful”.
“I have indigenous in me and I know the best way to move on is to let go and forgive because that is the Australian way,” Ms Lambie said.
But Aboriginal lawyer Michael Mansell said Ms Lambie “missed the point” of the campaign to change the date.
I have indigenous in me and I know the best way to move on is to let go and forgive because that is the Australian way.Jacqui Lambie
“It’s disappointing that [Ms Lambie] … is failing to show … moral leadership,” he said.
“We are talking about governments … and politicians like Jacqui Lambie expecting people to celebrate such a divisive day as a national date of celebration.”
Mr Mansell said conservative politicians’ reticence about changing the date of Australia Day was “political posturing”.
“The ‘no’ campaign is saying, ‘Come hell or high water, we’re going to hold this position. We can’t explain why we need to hold this position’,” he said.
“They say, ‘We want to stay with this date because we want to stay with this date’.
“I think they have this fear of … the floodgates opening up if you allow the debate, the social justice movement saying, ‘Look, you’ve got to change the date,’ and if you agree to that, what’s next?”