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Celebrating Australia Day On January 26 Is Racist And Should Be Changed, Says Indigenous Singer

"Does it include everyone or doesn't it? No, it doesn't. Don't call it Australia Day."

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ABC TV

Singer-songwriter Dan Sultan has called for the date of Australia Day to be changed, saying celebrating the national day as it stands is racist and excludes Indigenous Australians.

Speaking on ABC panel show Q&A on Monday night, Sultan, who is Indigenous, said to call January 26 "Australia Day" is wrong.

January 26 marks the start of the British colonisation of Australia, with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. It is a day of great mourning and sorrow for Indigenous Australians.

"I think it's important that a day called Australia Day includes all Australians, the fact of the matter is that it doesn't include us, excludes us," Sultan said.

"It excludes anyone who has any type of sympathy or empathy towards our story, which is a hell of a lot of Australians ... To recognise it, I think, it's important because it's a big day in our history as a nation and history as a people, as Aboriginal people as well. But I think there are other days."

The discussion comes as two councils in Victoria have vowed to stop celebrating Australia Day on January 26, prompting the federal government to withdraw their right to conduct citizenship ceremonies.

"It's a complicated issue, but also very simple as well," Sultan added later in the show. "Does it include everyone or doesn't it? No, it doesn't. Don't call it Australia Day,"

The panel discussed whether the date should be changed as well as the recent outcry over whether or not statues celebrating Australia's colonial history should have their plaques amended to correctly reflect what was done to Indigenous people.

Sultan is featured on January 26, a track about changing the date by Indigenous duo A.B. Original. Asked by host Tony Jones if the "subtext" of the track is that Australia Day has become a bit racist, Sultan said:

"Australia Day has always been racist. I don't think it's a subtext, it's pretty straight up about it."

But his calls to change the date weren't reflected by others on the panel.

Attorney-general George Brandis said there was a "natural logic" to celebrating the day on January 26.

"[That date] is the point in time at which the Australia we now recognise, modern Australia, had its beginning — without for a moment disrespecting the fact that for many millennia, for some 65,000 years, there were Indigenous people living on this continent."

Senator Jacqui Lambie said she has "no intentions" of backing a move to change the date.

"Australia Day is supposed to be about us all coming united," she said. "Doesn't matter what religion you are, what colour skin you are, where you have come from.

"You know what — someone else will pick another day and then someone, there'll be a minority group say, we don't like that date. When is this going to stop?"

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said it was "dishonest to pretend there's not a problem", and that the way we observe Australia Day must "evolve"; Liberal councillor Christine Forster suggested Australia establish a day for special recognition of the Indigenous community.

"I think it's very likely that over time, that would become the Australia Day that we all, including the Indigenous community, take as our national day of togetherness," she said.

The debate is likely to continue, with Blue Mountains City Council and Marion council in Adelaide among those seeking to debate whether to change the date.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

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