Hundreds of thousands of Australians have been told they can 'swap the date' and work on January 26 if they disagree with the public holiday considered as both Australia Day and Invasion Day.
Woolworths, Telstra, Deloitte, Wesfarmers and KPMG have publicly announced that their employees will have the choice to take the public holiday, or work, and have the day off in lieu.
On January 26, 1788, Sir Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Warrane (Sydney Cove) to claim the land as a British colony. For many First Nations people this day is recognised as Survival Day or Invasion Day due to the massacres, land theft and ongoing oppression associated with colonisation.
Australia Day was enshrined as a public holiday in 1994.
The issue of whether to celebrate Australia Day is the topic of fierce debate. This year Australia Day fireworks have been cancelled in Melbourne while Perth has scaled back celebrations and Hobart and Brisbane have no official fireworks shows planned.
The City of Melbourne is one of several local government areas across the country turning it's back on the national day.
The City of Melbourne will advocate to the federal government to change the date of Australia Day, following an independent survey which showed majority support for the move.
Aboriginal Melbourne portfolio lead councillor Dr Olivia Ball told ACM Melburnians supported the change.
"The majority of Melburnians want to change the date on which Australia Day is celebrated, and we're proud to take a strong stance in advancing this important discussion," she said.
The Greens-led Merri-bek council, in Melbourne's north, also voted to abandon Australia Day citizenship ceremonies and instead honour the date with a mourning event to recognise the dispossession of Indigenous Australians.
It comes as momentum builds for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, due to be held in the second half of 2023.
Wiradyuri man and research fellow in Indigenous diplomacy at ANU James Blackwell told ACM Australian attitudes toward the public holiday were changing.
"We've seen the Australian people become more aware of the fact that January 26 isn't a day to be celebrating, we've seen a real cultural shift in the past five to ten years," he said.
"It's front of a lot of people's minds that if we're supporting a referendum to give First Nations people greater self determination, greater autonomy, greater rights and recognition, that doesn't sit well with the idea that we're going to celebrate the day of that dispossession we're trying to rectify via referendum, those two things don't co-exist well."
Constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament is a body enshrined in the Constitution that would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide advice to the Parliament on policies and projects that impact their lives.
Some First Nations activists including Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe have criticised the Voice to Parliament, arguing a treaty process should come first.
"To get a treaty that's effective you need to have some sort of structural power within the system, otherwise the government has all this leverage in the negotiation over the treaty, and there's no ability for us to really advocate for ourselves," Mr Blackwell said.
"What a voice does is create that structural leverage, and gives us a say within a system, gives us a voice to the parliament and a voice to the Australian people."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Recent polling by Roy Morgan suggests that roughly two-thirds of Australian adults believe we should continue to have Australia Day on January 26.
The same study found that Australians aged under 35 are more likely to favour calling January 26 "Invasion Day". Of those aged 18 to 25, two-thirds would agree.
Mr Blackwell is optimistic that Australia will move away from celebrating a day that is painful for First Nations communities.
"I think we're on a journey to a better Australia," he said.
"It will be a slow one, and there will be pushback, but eventually we'll get to the point where the day is either not celebrated, or it's moved entirely."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.