Western Australian Greens Senator Dorinda Cox has called on Patrick Gorman to push for changing the date of Australia Day within the Labor Party, after the Member for Perth threw his support behind the campaign.
In an opinion editorial in featured in the West Australian on Sunday, Gorman said it was “time to admit” that his past position on the controversial public holiday was wrong.
“Previously when asked about Australia Day, I have said I support January 26 as being the date which we celebrate as a nation,” he wrote.
“In all honesty this is what I thought was right, but I can’t deny it also balanced with political considerations — looming State and Federal elections and the desire to avoid public disagreement.
“That’s why now, well away from any election and the annual intensity of this debate is the right time to think open-heartedly about this policy challenge.”
A proud Yamatji-Noongar woman, Senator Cox welcomed the move but said it’s important to acknowledge the ongoing work Aboriginal people have done on the Change the Date campaign.
“I think it’s admirable that Patrick Goleman talks about how he got it wrong,” she said.
“I didn’t see [in Gorman’s op-ed] an acknowledgment that First Nations people have actually been saying this for a really long time, and that would have been more beneficial for him to say- even within his own party, the work that his First Nations senators and MPs have undertaken- rather than trying to sort of grab the spotlight for a minute.”
Though there is support for changing the date within the Federal Labor Caucus, Leader Anthony Albanese told the West Australian that Labor currently has no plans to change the date if elected.
“We welcome him to the table, since he finally had a bit of a realisation that he does have a role. But we don’t want to see a ‘white-saviour-y’ moment,” she said.
“We don’t need to be saved, what we need him to do is use his position of power to create an opportunity for us to be at the table.
“We need him to actually structure a leadership position within his own party and to listen to the voices all of his First Nations MPs.”
Gorman told NIT he doesn’t believe that the Invasion Day discussion is won by arguments.
“I’ll share with people the process I went through and the piece that I’ve written, but I didn’t change my view because people lobbied me,” he said.
“I think people come to these conclusions [after] just having taken the time to reflect on the feedback received from Indigenous leaders in their own communities, and from broader communities as well.”
Gorman said Changing the Date needs bipartisan support.
“I’ve referenced the Apology [to the Stolen Generation], which, while that was Kevin Rudd’s moment, it was also a bipartisan moment. It was a motion moved by the Prime Minister, and the Apology motion was seconded by opposition leader,” he said.
“When you get to those points, that’s the way that you make lasting change, because the worst outcome would be that it changes and it changed back and it gets taken into a never ending political cycle.”
Gorman said the next step for Labor is enacting the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“What gets many of these things, these and other questions, moving is this question of enacting the recommendations of the Uluru Statement, which is probably the piece where every member of the Labor Party is in alignment, and focused on doing that as our number one priority if we form Government,” he said.
A spokesperson for the South West Land and Sea Council said Gorman’s comments are a sign that public opinion is changing.
“Changing the date will be an important stage in acknowledging our history and the injustices that Aboriginal people have faced, and the member for Perth’s comments are a welcome sign of how far public opinion is changing,” they said.
“Symbolic changes are necessary for acknowledging past wrongs, as long as that work is part of a broader project of fixing the injustices that are still happening now.”
By Sarah Smit