Make September 8 Australia Day, anthem in Pitjantjatjara


2499 Ted Egan singerBy TED EGAN
Two items  are prominent in the news at the moment.
The remains of Matthew Flinders have been unearthed at Euston Station and it has been proposed that he be re-buried in “an appropriate churchyard” presumably in England.
And there is  heated debate in Australia about the most appropriate day to recognise as “Australia Day”.
Dates discussed seem to be restricted to January 26, April 25 (Anzac Day) and January 1 (Federation Day). There are many reasons why none of these three dates is suitable as a day revered by all Australians as our “national day”.
There is a concerted move to have January 26 (only recently acknowledged) day labelled “Invasion Day”, a movement led by a minority of pale-skinned First Australians  unprepared to acknowledge in most cases that a major percentage of their individual DNA scores derives from the invaders.
This minority movement has credibility, but its supporters seem unable or unwilling to offer a suitable alternative, acceptable to the majority of our citizens, to establish a day of national celebration.
April 25 is the anniversary of two important military exercises, firstly (1915) the aggressive landing at Gallipoli by the Anzacs seeking to capture Turkey.
The same date is also the anniversary of the participation of Australians in the defence (1918) of Villers-Bretonneux, a truly heroic victory that helped bring an end to World War I.  Nonetheless, this date, while important in military terms, is a day of Observance, not celebration.
January 1 is the day on which (1901) the Australian Federation was proclaimed, based on a national Constitution, in which it was decreed that, in reckoning the national population figures, “Aboriginal natives of Australia shall not be counted”. They were deemed to be a sub-species.
Additionally the self-styled Fathers of Federation (all white, elderly males) bequeathed to us an inflexible Constitution, a hotch-potch of railway gauges and selfish clauses destined to preserve power for themselves within their various states and through their political parties.
January 1 is an important date, a natural consequence to the definition by Flinders as an “island continent”, but hardly a national day of celebration, other than as New Years Day.
I am suggesting a new date.
2605 Matthew Flinders OKThursday, September 8, 1803 was the date Matthew Flinders (pictured) considered that the circumnavigation of Australia was complete. He had in fact completed the journey in June 1803.
See his Journal, Voyage to Terra Australis, Volume II. p. 321. On September 8 he officially reported to Governor King that he had circumnavigated an island continent, Terra Australis – occupied by First Australians in many of the coastal places he visited, where their distinctive languages were spoken.
He accurately recorded words of some of those languages. He was also aware, of course, of the later British presence that had been established at Sydney Cove in 1788 and that English was the language of those new citizens.
Details of his incarceration by the French at Mauritius and his death in London on July 19, 1841 – the day after publication of his journal and charts – are well-known.
I suggest:-
• Bring the remains of Matthew Flinders  to Australia for ceremonial burial at Circular Quay (Port Jackson), where he began and ended the circumnavigation.
It should be possible to establish with his family connections and the British government that he is indeed a hero in Australian as well as British history, perhaps even more so here. He could be awarded the honorific Conditor Australis, Founder of Australia.
• Establish September 8 as Australia Day, commemorating September 8, 1803, henceforth called Foundation Day.
• Establish Pitjantjatjara as Lingua Australis and have the (amended) National Anthem translated into that language, in order that dual versions – Australian and English – may be presented.
If the language of Bongaree/Bungaree, a First Australian man who accompanied Flinders, is still valid, that is a consideration, but a more acceptable tactic might be an invitation for any surviving Australian language to be used accordingly, provided the version is certified as accurate and appropriate (the Commonwealth of Australia holds copyright authority in this respect).
There is no doubt that Pitjantjatjara is the most widely known Australian language and its orthography is very straightforward.
I’d welcome your thoughts.


  1. The concern is there will still be people who associate Australia Day on any date as Invasion Day.
    Changing the date won’t change this.
    I would like to see how many Indigenous people see it as invasion day and really want this date changed, or is it being pushed by a minority of full time protesters who will find anything to protest about.
    I also note it was the British who invaded and not Australians. Maybe direct the anger towards those mob.

  2. As stated in a previous comment: No matter what date, some will still call it invasion day.
    I would not accommodate any requests to people whose spokesperson yelled “burn Australia to the ground” and burned the Australian flag.

  3. I agree with many of Ted’s ideas but would like to provide information on Australian languages:
    Pitjantjatjara may not be the most widely known Australian Indigenous language. According to the 2016 census, Pitjantjatjara is fourth after Kriol, Yumplatok, and Djambarrpuyngu.

  4. My Dear Mr Egan, I cannot determine from your piece if this is satire or your genuine opinion.
    I would like to call attention to something you’ve written that I take exception to, and I would like you to consider my thoughts on your thoughts. You wrote…
    “…a movement led by a minority of pale-skinned First Australians unprepared to acknowledge in most cases that a major percentage of their individual DNA scores derived from the invaders.”
    It is not your place – nor your responsibility – to define the identity of others by shades of a persons skin colour and adjust for “whiteness.”
    When you do so in your writing, it is a means of lessening a persons identity as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Your purpose in doing so, as far as I can gather, is that if someone is pale-skinned with presumably European heritage that they somehow lack authenticity to protest with their darker-skinned relatives.
    This logic is racist in its history and in its modern context.
    Australia has a long history of this racist logic with blood quotas: The White Australia Policy, terms like “half-caste” etc.
    I imagine a man of your age is aware that there are contemporaries of yours who had a very different childhood because of the colour of their skin. In fact the paleness of a child was a known risk factor for being stolen and put onto a mission.
    The children weren’t stolen because they were pale and therefore white – the law couldn’t do this to white children – they were stolen because they were Indigenous.
    The explicit purpose of these policies were to create paler and paler generations who would “pass for white” and assimilate into the dominant white culture: I’m service and labour roles. Punishments on missions included physical and verbal abuse for non assimilating behaviour, such as continuing to speak in languages other than English, dancing, sharing stories etc.
    What have I interpreted from your piece?
    That perhaps you too were affected by racist rhetoric and policies growing up.
    Perhaps this is why you – as a man with a media platform – believe you should help the public understand that pale Indigenous Australians are mostly white Australians and thus should assimilate into White Australian culture. Or shouldn’t they be listened to as having an authentic Aboriginal perspective?
    Is a person’s Indigeniety subject to public scrutiny that you try to deny them because of their skin colour or mixed heritage?
    That having European and Aboriginal heritage weakens the arguments of people protesting for social and cultural justice? That they cannot speak to Indigenous issues?
    Or perhaps you don’t realise that your statement regarding “a movement led by a minority of pale-skinned First Australians unprepared to acknowledge in most cases that a major percentage of their individual DNA scores derived from the invaders” is an offensive statement that is grounded in racist rhetoric best left in the past?
    You cannot decide if a person is Indigenous or non-Indigenous by the colour of their skin – it is for that person to determine their own identity.
    Cultural identities are divisive – people aren’t half this or half that, they are a whole person i.e. this AND that.
    So please Mr Egan, consider your choice of words and arguments more thoughtfully in the future, and don’t diminish Indigenous voices in protest with “white-washing” rhetoric.

  5. @ Shannon Spalding. It’s unfortunate Mr Egan, a well respected man amongst his peers, should buy into the Australia Day debate and argument using such terminology to describe people who identify as Aboriginal, as pale skinned First Australians who are unprepared to acknowledge in most cases, that a major percentage of their individual DNA score derives from the invaders.
    In the modern world of DNA, many non-Aboriginal Australians would discover their DNA scores would show a mix of races in their own heritage, not pure white as many may consider themselves to be and identify to be, without dispute.
    Pale skinned First Australians identify as Aboriginal, that is their inheritance and they identify as such so why dispute it? That should not continue to be determined by others.
    That sort of thing happened in Mr Egan’s days as Native Affairs Officer who had enormous powers over Aboriginal people, where Aboriginal people of mixed heritage were classified as quadroon, quarter caste, half caste segregated from their full blood families.
    These are the sorts of issues this country needs to come to terms with if this country is to move forward with a day that embraces all Australians regardless of their DNA make up.

  6. To my critics:
    I welcome your comments and accept them as being relevant to necessary, reasonable discussion on many and various topics on our minds at the moment.
    Yes, I am old and yes, I once worked for Native Affairs Branch, the government body that implemented the policies established by the old Aboriginals Ordinance.
    Like a few of my contemporaries I was always out to take the side of our Aboriginal clients, often questioning our superiors in the process.
    I was never involved in the removal of a mixed race child, but I could have been.
    I wept with Ted Evans when he refused to be involved again in such removals, specifically after he had been involved in the forcible removal of Maurie Jabada Ryan.
    I could not sign the Sorry Books quickly enough and am now fiercely determined that this country never again has laws based on race.
    My granddaughter Jessica is a First Australian. Her parents are my daughter and her First Australian father.
    I am her grandfather: Jess and I share great pride in her First Australian inheritance and that of her children, no matter how “pale-skinned” they are. A First Australian is a person who can establish genetic links to Australia in 1787. No ifs or buts, no counting drops of blood, no percentages. I am classified as an Australian and that is fine by me: I was lucky enough to be born here. I respect and acknowledge ALL First Australians.
    What I object to, in the debate about Australia Day and the references to Invasion Day, is the stance taken by many undoubted First Australians and their supporters, that they are the owners of Australia and the rest of the occupants of the nation are the ones who stole the land.
    Yes, of course there was a settlement that could be called an invasion – so let’s discard 26 January – but the vast majority of First Australians have inherited the genes of the invaders, as well as those of their Aboriginal ancestors.
    The sad outcome is that there will probably be internal conflict on this issue. Cronulla could happen again, for there are many ugly polemicists out there, anxious to take on anyone who is not 100% and aggressively Caucasian. They (and they don’t include me) are out to count drops of blood.
    Most Australians of all backgrounds simply want a public holiday to enjoy: a day that Jessica and I can share together – and enjoy. Let’s take on Matthew Flinders as the man who first recognised this country as “a nation”.
    To Rosalie Schultz:
    Despite rejecting Kriol and Yumplatok as being languages and also suggesting that the lingua franca of Arnhem Land is Gupapuyngu rather than Djamparrpuyngu, I take your Census figures as being accurate. However I stick to my guns. Pitjantjara (as its speakers invariably pronounce the word) is the language that is most widely recognised in Australia.
    And, crucially, its orthography is sound. In the absence of an Aboriginal alphabet, they have adopted the standard 26 word alphabet that is on everybody’s word processor. No accents, no tailed Ns, no humbug.
    Let me recount a short story. I was in Arnhem Land in the late 60s, when we won the battle to use the proper Aboriginal place name for the new town. The mining company wanted to call it Gove. I suggested that it be Noolanboy (spelt thus) – the name bestowed by Wuyal. In came the orthographers. They insisted on the spelling being Nhulunbuy. Nobody could work out the pronunciation. Today, it’s generally called Gove.
    Thanks Erwin for inviting this debate. Bring it on.

  7. Back in the conversation … tee hee!
    Before I start though I think you should know I am a daughter of one of those bureaucrats in Canberra in Department of Territories / Interior. My father was in Housing.
    While I was a child my father would fly off to the Northern Territory and return with fresh Barramundy brought home for us in the aeroplane fridge.
    He would cook it, and it was delicious, a wonderful feast!
    He told us of the huge respect he had for the young Patrol Officer, Ted Egan, who knew how to talk to Aboriginal people and was a very fair man.
    How can you provide housing to meet the needs of people you aren’t able to converse with?
    I think there were some bureaucrats in Canberra back then, certainly my father, recognised he didn’t know how to.
    Not all were ill-intentioned, hey!
    Now back to Mathew Flinders. It is very exciting his grave was found in the London underground recently.
    I agree by all means to bring his remains back to Australia and celebrate the foundation of Australia with an existing diversity of peoples, languages and cultures on the September 9.
    Sadly, his companion Bungaree disappeared into unanimity.
    However, I think a fair Australia should recognise the huge diversity of Indigenous languages and cultures pre-colonization
    2019 is the year of Indigenous languages and there are seminar sessions going on in The National Library of Australia today … they are on to session 3.
    Session 4 starts at 3.30pm. It is very interesting. The sessions are available on National Library of Australia Facebook page.
    What is wrong with having a single national anthem sung in the language/culture you identify yourself in? An anthem that celebrates the diversity of Australians without degrading any of them.

  8. Shannon Spaulding: It is quite ironic that you chastise Mr Egan over his choice of words.
    He has done far more for the Indigenous people in the NT (both fair skinned and full blood) than you could ever dream of, yet you chastise him on the words he uses.
    It is ironic that you attribute the white Australia policy to relating to Aboriginal people whereas it actually was an immigration policy.
    You quote things about the so called stolen generation that really prove you have no real understanding about that subject either, apart from the populist ideas of that myth.
    I might identify as a Syrian Attack Helicopter, but does that mean I am one? How is it fair that an urban couple living in a million dollar house, a white male living with a mostly white woman whose great grandmother was Aboriginal, gets the same benefit, drawing from the same funding as a child living at Mutitjulu? Of corse not.
    Be proud of your cultural identity, but acknowlege all sides. Whilst I do not agree with Ted’s proposal, I would never contemplate trying to educate him on Aboriginal affairs.
    That would be like arguing with Stephen Hawking about what sort of cheese the moon is made from.

  9. Has anyone asked the descendants of Matthew Flinders what they think of the proposal to bring his remains to Australia? I hope so, as surely common courtesy would make that a first step.
    Just asking …

  10. To Hal: I agree that it would be common courtesy to approach the relatives of Matthew Flinders first and I think a good case could be put by, say, the Prime Minister of Australia, to indicate the high level of esteem we have for him and seek their permission to have him re-interred in the land that he founded.
    If not his actual remains, a worthy monument could be erected at Circular Quay. I simply raise these ideas in the interests of true Australian harmony, suggesting a day to be CELEBRATED by all Australians and particularly First Australians. If the idea does not take off, at least I “had a go”.
    To Jan Martin: Thanks for your complimentary remarks Jan. Bungaree did not go into unanimity, or even anonymity. He was a highly respected citizen of the Broken Bay region until his death. He, too, deserves to be associated with the declaration of Australia’s Foundation Day. A joint memorial?


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