An Indigenous businessman is campaigning to have the date of Australia Day changed … and the flag too.
New restaurant Penelope’s in Sydney’s circular quay won’t be celebrating Australia Day. Instead, they’re offering diners an Invasion Day menu, in support of the Indigenous community.
Jay Walton’s plea comes amid a campaign for a shift away from the contentious date of January 26, which many First Nations people refer to as “Invasion Day”.
Mr Walton’s journey into his Indigenous heritage began in his 30s when he stumbled upon his Aboriginal roots through an Elder.
This revelation marked the start of the 47-year-old’s mission to raise awareness of the inappropriateness of celebrating Australia Day on a date that symbolises sorrow for Aboriginal Australians.
He explained that January 26, the day when Sir Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Warrane (Sydney Cove) in 1788, coincided with the massacre of thousands of Aboriginal people.
Operating as a fourth-generation Aboriginal Australian within the sustainable fashion industry, Walton spearheads the “3 Flags, 1 Country” campaign.
His objective is to replace the current date of Australia Day and the national flag with a celebration that incorporates both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.
“I used to feel a strong connection to the Australian flag, but I don’t anymore because of everything it represents,” Mr Walton said.
“Celebrating Australia Day on the 26th of January is a disgrace because that day started years worth of massacres against Indigenous Australians.
“Australia Day and every day that flag flies is a breach of human rights.”
Mr Walton said altering the date and the flag would not be just a symbolic gesture but “the most powerful act of reconciliation”.
His campaign seeks to address the heightened racial tension and division that surrounds Australia Day, making it a day of unity rather than contention.
“The racial tension that surrounds this date wrecks the fun for a lot of Australians on both sides of the topic,” he said.
Growing up in Old Bar, near Taree and Forster, Mr Walton recalls the racially charged environment with tension against Aboriginal Australians.
“Due to my heritage being a family secret, I never got the opportunity to identify with my Indigenous family growing up,” he said.
“I used to pass the Missions every day on the way to school in Taree and Forster, thinking how unjust it was that the white fellas are on one side and the black fellas on the other.”
As his advocacy gains momentum, Mr Walton has aligned his business, re-loved apparel, with One Tree Planted, ensuring that environmental stewardship is a part of his mission.
With each sale of the “3 Flags, 1 Country” t-shirt and tote bag, a tree will be planted in Australia, emphasising the interconnectedness of cultural and environmental preservation.
In Mr Walton’s view, embracing all three flags together as a symbol of solidarity offers a healthier way to approach Australia Day celebrations until the date is changed.