Scott Morrison says Indigenous Australians’ overcoming of colonisation is perhaps “the greatest Australian story” but insists “all stories” are important on Australia Day.
The Prime Minister came under fire last week for saying January 26 1788 “wasn’t particularly flash” for convicts arriving either as he defended Australia Day remaining on that date.
But speaking on Australia Day, Mr Morrison described Indigenous Australians as some of “the greatest overcomers of all our peoples in this country”.
Mr Morrison said his message on Australia Day, seen by many as Invasion Day, was partly one of “recognition and understanding” for the experience of Indigenous Australians.
“One of the greatest overcomes of all of our peoples in this country have been our First Nations peoples,” he told 2GB Radio on Tuesday.
“The have had to overcome dispossession and they’ve had to overcome colonisation. They are a thriving, surviving community, the world’s oldest living culture.
“I think this story of overcoming is one of if not the greatest Australian story, and it’s one that we can all combine together and acknowledge.
“But whether it’s First Nations people, the convicts or the settlers that came, or the many who have since come and made us the most successful immigration country in the world today, all of these stories are important.”
Mr Morrison has rejected calls to move Australia Day from January 26, arguing the date acknowledged both the achievements and hardships suffered by Australians.
But Australian of the Year Grace Tame called for the date be moved after receiving the honour on Monday, saying “symbols are really important”.
“In the case of Indigenous Australians and First Nations people, this date, Invasion Day, is a huge symbol,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“And it costs us nothing as a nation to actually change that date. And it would mean a lot to that community and to our national community. I think that’s important.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has pushed for constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians and remained open to a proposal from Indigenous activist Noel Pearson to have commemorations on two days.
“We are diminished as a nation while we don’t recognise First Nation people in our constitution,” he said on Monday.
“We need to acknowledge our history as it was, and that people weren’t there welcoming the First Fleet. What occurred after then was frontier wars and all that history, much of which hasn’t been written.”