The University of Wollongong has given full-time staff the choice to work on the Australia Day public holiday, in a move that seeks to reflect changing attitudes towards the public holiday.
Staff will now have the choice to take the 27th or 30th of January off, instead of Invasion Day itself.
While many Australians believe January 26th commemorates the planting of the Union Jack in sovereign Dharawal land by Captain Cook in 1770, it is actually the date the First Fleet – captained by Arthur Phillip – landed in Warrane (now called Sydney Cove) in 1788.
In fact, January 26th was publicly recognised as a sombre occasion for Indigenous people long before it became Australia’s national holiday. Only in 1994 did the 26th of January become the Australia Day public holiday, after opposition from Indigenous activist groups.
Former SRC First Nations Officer Jaime Stanley, says “I think it is good for everyone to have that choice as in this day and age many people don’t acknowledge Australia Day as it is honestly not a date of celebration.”
National NTEU President Dr Alison Barnes expects other universities to follow suit, noting that “Invasion Day is a deeply distressing day for so many First Nations people, including members of our union.
“Allowing a choice of whether to work or not acknowledges that many in our community don’t want to mark the anniversary of genocide, dispossession and suffering with a public holiday.”
Major Australian companies have previously given staff flexibility around public holidays such as the so-called Australia Day Public Holiday, including Telstra, BHP and Deloitte.
The University of Sydney continues to maintain its recognition of January 26 as a public holiday.