DFAT Says Australia Day Inclusivity Memo Was Not ‘Official’

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
January 26, 2022 Updated: January 27, 2022

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has said that a memo sent to the staff prior to Australia Day encouraging them to act “inclusively” towards Indigenous Australians was not an official document and that it should not have been disseminated.

It comes after the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and other media outlets reported on Jan. 26 about an internal email from an acting DFAT staffer working on Pacific issues that told employees to “educate” themselves about the history of Australia during colonial times.

“It should not be left solely to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to acknowledge the realities of their histories and what this date means,” the email said, reported the SMH.

“Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have mixed feelings about celebrating this day. Some consider it a day of mourning, and others use the day to mark the survival of their ongoing traditions and cultures.”

It has also been revealed that DFAT staff said they felt “embarrassed” by the contents of the email which they believed was an “insult” to their intelligence.

Epoch Times Photo
Protesters take part in an “Invasion Day” demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney, Australia, on Jan. 26, 2022. (Steven Saphore / AFP)

In response to the reports, DFAT published a clarification note on Wednesday saying: “This was not an official or authorised document of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and should not have been distributed.”

Australians are split over the official national day of Australia, which marks the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of the country.
While some continue to celebrate the day, others push for the day to be recognised as “a reminder of the pain and suffering” of Indigenous Australians and that the national day should be changed or abolished.

On Thursday, thousands of people took part in “Invasion Day” rallies across the country and gathered in Canberra in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

In Melbourne, protesters vandalised a statue of British explorer Captain Cook with red paint.

Epoch Times Photo
Protesters take part in an “Invasion Day” demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney on January 26, 2022. (Steven Saphore / AFP)

But despite media coverage amplifying the message of “change the date” advocates, polling on the matter has shown that a growing majority of Australians do not think a change is necessary.

A Roy Morgan poll has shown that 65 percent of Australians believe Jan. 26, the current date, should remain as Australia Day. This is an increase of six percent from 2021.

However, amongst those under the age of 30, the figures were reversed with 64 percent viewing it as Invasion Day.

Marina Zhang contributed to the report.

Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.