ABC survey finds majority of Aussies now support changing Australia Day from January 26

ABC’s Australia Talks survey, represents the start of dispossession, survey as “intellectually dishonest”, stark contrast to two recent polls, and “Invasion Day” interchangeably

A large crowd at Gordon’s Bay in Sydney on January 26, 2021. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The majority of Australians now support changing the date of Australia Day from January 26 due to its “historical significance for Indigenous people”, the national broadcaster says.

According to the ABC’s Australia Talks survey, the number of people who agree the date should be changed has increased by 12 percentage points since 2019, representing one of the biggest moves in public sentiment between the two surveys.

Fifty-five per cent of the 17,351 respondents now agree with the statement, “Australia Day should not be celebrated on January 26, given the historical significance of that date for Indigenous people”.

Of those, 39 per cent said they strongly agreed, also a marked shift from the 28 per cent who were strongly in favour of changing the date in 2019.

January 26, which commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 to found the colony of New South Wales, has been an annual public holiday since 1994.

For some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, so-called “Invasion Day” represents the start of dispossession at the hands of European settlers.

Calls to change the date from January 26 have grown over the past five years.

Indigenous businesswoman Shelley Reys, who was the inaugural co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, told the ABC the shift in attitude towards Australia Day showed the country was “growing and maturing as a reconciled nation”.

“That doesn’t mean we have got there – we still have a long way to go – but I do think the maturity shows we are now thinking about the relationship between [Indigenous and non-Indigenous people] and how we repair the relationship,” she said.

“Part of that is understanding the perspective of the other, and in this case it’s about January 26, and possibly changing that date.”

ABC’s Australia Talks survey, represents the start of dispossession, survey as “intellectually dishonest”, stark contrast to two recent polls, and “Invasion Day” interchangeably

‘Invasion Day’ rallies have grown in attendance. Picture: Dan Peled/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

‘Most comprehensive poll ever’

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt told the broadcaster he did not support changing the date, saying it was a “day to celebrate Indigenous, British and multicultural history and look forward in unity with a determination to build a stronger and more rewarding Australia for all”.

He also questioned the ABC’s survey methodology.

Gerard Henderson, columnist with The Australian, has previously criticised the Australia Talks survey as “intellectually dishonest”, saying the respondents were part of the “ABC family” as they were ABC viewers or readers.

An ABC spokeswoman rejected suggestion the survey only represented ABC viewers.

“It’s an understandable misconception that Australia Talks reflects the views of existing ABC audiences – but that isn’t the case,” she said.

“Australia Talks is in fact probably the most comprehensive and representative poll of the attitudes of all Australians on this variety of topics that has ever been conducted.”

She said the latest survey included “more than 60,000 Australians from every federal electorate in every State and Territory, comprising a diverse cross-section of Australians that is fully representative of modern Australia”.

“Participants were drawn from people who have completed the interactive online application Vote Compass – this is a broad group, and one that we know reaches beyond traditional ABC audiences due to the way Vote Compass reaches different audience segments on social media,” she said.

“A series of pre- and post-stratification statistical weights were then applied to the sample in order to model inferences that are representative of the entire Australian population.

“The weights control for example, selection effects using census and other population-level estimates for sex, age, education, language, geography and partisanship (based on vote choice in the 2019 federal election).”

ABC’s Australia Talks survey, represents the start of dispossession, survey as “intellectually dishonest”, stark contrast to two recent polls, and “Invasion Day” interchangeably

There is growing support to change the date. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

‘No one in charge’ at ABC

The Australia Talks survey findings stand in stark contrast to two recent polls which found little appetite among the Australian public for changing the date.

An Ipsos poll of 1222 people nationally, conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers in January, found fewer than one-third of Australians supported the move, while nearly half were opposed.

Another poll of 1038 people, conducted by research firm Dynata on behalf of the conservative Institute of Public Affairs think tank, suggested 69 per cent supported celebrating Australia Day on January 26, while only 11 per cent thought the date should be changed.

The IPA’s poll was the fourth year it had asked the question.

Over that time support for January 26 dropped from 75 per cent and 69 per cent, but the percentage wanting to change the date remained steady at around 11 per cent.

IPA director of communications Evan Mulholland described the wording of the ABC’s survey question as “push polling”, saying it “highlights ABC staff’s animosity towards Australians and the Australian way of life”.

“Australia Talks has found that Australians are racist and now that they don’t value our national day – exactly the kind of obsessions you would get from an inner-city taxpayer-funded behemoth not subject to pressures of the private media market,” he said.

“ABC management claim to have control over selection bias, but it’s clear from what they’ve decided to ask that the ABC is a staff run collective with no one in charge. You will never hear the ABC talk about what unites Australians, our spirit of egalitarianism and love for our country.”

Mr Mulholland highlighted the ABC’s “embarrassing backdown” earlier this year after an article used the terms “Australia Day” and “Invasion Day” interchangeably.

“The ABC is an identity politics-obsessed, agenda-driven staff collective that we pay for,” he said. “It is about time we had an honest debate about privatising the ABC or turning it into an opt-in subscription service.”

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