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The ABC's statement trying to justify its use of Invasion Day

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Some audience members have been asking about the ABC’s terminology in stories and coverage around Australia Day.

This is a perennial issue. As National Indigenous affairs reporter Isabella Higgins writes (“Australia Day debate is exhausting and data tells us it could last another generation”):

“Every year, January 26 rolls around, and each time the same debate about our national day floods the country’s consciousness — and for some of us it can feel tiringly predictable. The loud headlines, the hyperbolic commentary, the sense this debate won’t be quickly resolved, or that perhaps some aren’t even looking for resolution.”

The default terminology for the ABC remains “Australia Day”, as you can see here:

We also recognise and respect that community members use other terms for the event, including “26 January”, “Invasion Day” and “Survival Day”, so our reporting and coverage reflect that.

This is the advice that has gone to ABC program teams:

The official (ie legislated) name of this day off in January varies by jurisdiction. In NSW it is “Australia Day”. In SA it is “26 January”. In WA and Tasmania it is dual-named: “Australia Day (26 January)”. In Queensland, the NT, the ACT and Victoria, the opposite convention is found: “26 January (Australia Day)”.  

Legislative use is one perspective. By way of contrast, government websites listing public holidays tend to use “Australia Day” in first reference, regardless of what the holiday is called in the relevant Act.

It is important to note, though, that both the Macquarie and the Australian Concise Oxford dictionaries list “Survival Day” and “Invasion Day” as roughly synonymous with “Australia Day”, either as “viewed by Indigenous people and their supporters” (Macquarie), or “especially in Aboriginal Australian contexts” (ACOD).

Both terms have a long history of use in this country: the Australian National Dictionary dates both to the 1980s. A precursor for both terms would be the 1938 announcement by Indigenous groups that January 26 – not then a national public holiday – be known as a Day of Mourning and Protest.

Given the variety of terms in use, and the different perspectives on the day that the ABC is going to cover over the course of the long weekend, it would be inappropriate to mandate staff use any one term over others in all contexts.

Media contact

Sally Jackson | ABC Communications


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