A senior staff member at one of Australia’s top universities has advised colleagues not to celebrate “the arrival of European culture” on Australia Day because it could be “deeply offensive” to minority groups.
Murrup Barak, head of the indigenous development institute at Melbourne University, posted his message on a staff notice board ahead of the country’s national holiday tomorrow (January 26).
Australia Day marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
In his message, Barak warned staff to “be respectful and inclusive” when celebrating, adding that the day has “complex meaning” for Australia’s indigenous people.
He wrote: “For some our national day is associated with thoughts of mourning, struggle and survival. Remember when planning events or engaging with social media: images and words celebrating the arrival of European culture and people can be deeply offensive to many.”
A university spokesman said: “The University believes indigenous staff at the institution should be able to express a view on the matter.”
But some were said to be unhappy with Barak’s warning, with one anonymous staff member reportedly accusing seniors of “pushing a political agenda” to “placate a vocal minority”.
Separately, some performers at the Australian of the Year Awards last night backed a campaign to change the date of Australia Day.
Hip-hop artist Kira Puru wore a choker which read “Change The Date” as she performed at the ceremony in Canberra on Wednesday. Another performer, Tim Levinson, better known as Australian rapper Urthboy, wore a T-shirt depicting an Aboriginal flag with the slogan: “Australia has a black history.”