Should employees have the choice to work on Australia Day and take off another day of their choosing in its place? Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania chief executive Michael Mansell believes they should, and the idea has merit.
Voices calling for a change of date for Australia Day have been growing increasingly louder over the past decade, and although an Ipsos poll undertaken in January found only 28 per cent of respondents definitively supported changing the date, it represents a sizeable and growing minority.
Some critics have been quick to label Mr Mansell's use of the term "Invasion Day" to describe January 26 as "divisive", but celebrating the date that Great Britain proclaimed sovereignty over unceded land in 1788 could hardly be called unifying, either.
In this particular instance, Mr Mansell is not saying people should be forced to work on January 26, merely that employees should be able to choose whether they observe the day or would prefer to enjoy a day off on a day of their choosing. He explained the proposal was not intended to result in businesses dictating to their employees, describing the decision as being akin to a conscience vote in Parliament.
It's not a new idea, with large firms including KPMG, Deloitte and PwC already giving their workers the option to not observe the public holiday and instead take a day off of their own choosing.
Detractors might dismiss the suggestion of letting workers opt out of recognising Australia Day as kowtowing to political correctness, or rewriting the nation's history. But it's worth noting that it wasn't until 1935 that all states and territories started using the name "Australia Day" to mark January 26 - and it didn't become a nationally recognised public holiday until 1994.
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January 26 is a solemn date for many Australians, and if some people would prefer not to observe the day, it will have next to no impact on those who do wish to celebrate.
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