The debate around Australia Day and whether the date should be changed to better include Indigenous Australians has ramped up in recent years and now it seems prevailing attitudes towards the day have started to shift.

January 26, 1788, was the day Arthur Phillip arrived in Sydney Cove and founded the settler colony of NSW.

To many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people this is recognised as the day the dispossession and marginalisation of Indigenous Australians began and is affiliated with a long history of violence and trauma.

This is why holding Australia Day celebrations on January 26 is such a contentious issue and why there is an ongoing push to choose a different date.

Past Change the Date rally held in Hobart on Australia Day. Picture: Nikki Davis-Jones
Past Change the Date rally held in Hobart on Australia Day. Picture: Nikki Davis-Jones

Polls conducted by Essential Media each year since 2015 show there has been a steady decline in people celebrating Australia Day.

This year just 29 per cent of more than 1000 people surveyed said they would be doing something to mark the day, down from 34 per cent the previous year and 40 per cent in 2019.

Research shows an increasing number of people are now treating January 26 as just another public holiday.

Over half of this year's respondents, 53 per cent, said they treat Australia Day as just another public holiday, which is the highest recorded since 2015.

Another six per cent said they were working on the day and 12 per cent said they didn't know.

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Aus Day poll. Picture: Essential Media
Aus Day poll. Picture: Essential Media

People aged 18-34 are more likely to treat Australia Day as a public holiday compared to older people, with just 23 per cent saying they would be doing something to celebrate the day.

Of those aged between 35-54, 34 per cent said they would be celebrating on January 26, along with 31 per cent of people aged 55 and over.

There is also growing support for a separate national day to recognise Indigenous Australians.

In this year's poll, more than half of the respondents said they support a separate day of recognition, with 35 per cent supporting a separate day while also keeping Australia Day and 18 per cent wanting a separate day to replace Australia Day.

Aus Day poll. Picture: Essential Media
Aus Day poll. Picture: Essential Media

Of the other respondents, 35 per cent said they don't support the creation of a separate day, down from 40 per cent in 2020.

People aged between 18-34 are most likely to support a separate national day, either in place or alongside Australia Day, with 67 per cent agreeing with the idea.

People aged 55 and over were more likely to be against the idea, with 55 per cent saying they don't support creating a separate day to recognise Indigenous Australians.

However, a poll being conducted by news.com.au is showing a very different result in regards to Australian's attitudes towards changing the date.

Of 15,800 voters, 73 per cent believe Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, with 21 per cent saying the date needs to be changed and 6 per cent believing Australia Day should be scrapped entirely.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously ruled out changing the date of Australia Day, but did suggest there could be another national day to celebrate Indigenous people and culture.

"We don't have to pull Australia Day down to actually recognise the achievements of Indigenous Australia, the oldest living culture in the world; the two can coexist," Mr Morrison told Channel 7 in 2018.

"Australia Day is Australia Day. You can't pretend your history isn't your history.

"That's the day the flag went up in Farm Cove. That's the day the course of the nation changed."

Originally published as Surprising results in Australia Day poll


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