That commercial about understanding each other and dealing with a difficult day is running on TV again. Australia Day is on the horizon. It’s the dilemma no one has the balls to solve. But Rob Morrison has an idea about tackling it.
In a departure from his usual industry commentary, Morrison has put his conceptual hat back on to find a “left-field” answer to a “right now” issue.
Australia’s toughest brief may have an answer in 24 hours.
It’s like an annual echo. It’s an argument which happens at this time of year, every year. It dominates discussion for a week or two and is then completely forgotten for the other 50 weeks.
What do we do about Australia Day?
As an inclusive nation, having a divisive celebration feels, well, un-Australian. Clearly, there are prickly arguments on all sides. Keep it. Move it. But if we move it, which date? January 1 is Federation Day but that’s already a holiday. May 8 has been suggested as it’s “Maaaa-aaaate.”
So, as a creative exercise, I figured it would be worth approaching it like a creative brief.
Here’s the problem:
January 26 is a day of great pain for indigenous communities. It marks the invasion of the land they had peacefully inhabited for 40,000 years. Their home. The start of White Australia’s hideous treatment – men in chains, the stolen generation. None of which has been fully recognised or rectified. Our collective “Sorry” should have been the start, not the end.
Here’s the tension:
Many non-indigenous Australians want to continue the traditions they have on January 26. The weather is warm. There’s cricket on the telly and in the backyard. Family picnics, barbeques and catch-ups. It’s the unofficial end of school holidays. So, it marks the return to routine after a summer of fun.
Here’s the challenge:
Find a compromise which works for both. Or at least doesn’t cause more division.
Here’s my pitch:
I firmly believe most non-indigenous Australians don’t actually care about the date. They’re not re-enacting the First Fleet’s arrival. They’re not dressing up as Captain Arthur Phillip. So, we could move the date with minimum impact but maximum effect.
Here’s my answer:
It’s the last day of unencumbered, peaceful Aboriginal stewardship of this land. We can celebrate all that’s wonderful about our first nations’ culture. Living at one with the land, not fighting against it the way English settlers did. Celebrating the unique, natural beauty of Australia. Each of us spending a day to celebrate how lucky we are to call Australia home – regardless of our skin colour, religion or arrival time.
And there is a strong precedent.
When I was a kid the “Australia Day” public holiday moved regularly. When January 26 fell on a weekend, the day off was moved to the Monday – January 27 or 28. Some of our more modern traditions have already moved. This year, Triple-J’s Hottest 100 will be played on January 22. The Australian Cricket Board no longer mentions Australia Day. Plus, some indigenous groups are already marking the last day of indigenous sovereignty. But it’s not divisive, yet.
Truth is, move our national day to January 25 and many non-indigenous Australians would hardly notice. But it could make an enormous difference to indigenous communities.
We could prove, once and for all, the difference a day makes.
(Next up, maybe we can do something about that flag which Jerry Seinfeld once described as “The Union Jack at night.”)
Rob Morrison is a long-running creative. He was creative director at Ogilvy Australia for seven years and before that milestone, creative director at BWM (now BWM Dentsu), George Patterson Y&R (now VMLY&R), The Campaign Palace and Wunderman.
Here are two more stories in Rob Morrison series: