Is triple j moving Australia Day, or just The Hottest 100?

Comments from Emily Rolfe and Peter Saxon

Emily Rolfe says: The ABC’s decision to move its annual Hottest 100 countdown has been made after extensive consultation with Indigenous and non-Indigenous musicians, community leaders, and a national survey of listeners (public surveys being all the rage now).

Pressure has been mounting on the youth broadcaster to shift the countdown for some time.

Predictably, a few disappointed MPs have taken to Twitter criticising the decision, with MP Alex Hawke declaring January 26th ‘a great day’ for the Hottest 100, and Senator Mitch Fifield saying ‘the ABC should honour it and not mess with the Hottest 100’.

Exactly how many Hottest 100 barbecues Hawke and Fifield have actually attended remains unknown at this time.

The countdown date itself has changed a few times already, with the first countdown taking place on March 5, 1989.

There’s no reason this day of music should remain tied to Australia Day, a date which for many Indigenous Australians represents a painful history of dispossession, exploitation, disease, frontier violence, destruction of culture, abuse, and separation of families. Not much to celebrate there.

In the words of Marngrook Footy Show panelist Leila Gurruwiwi, ‘mad props’ to the ABC on its decision.

Peter Saxon says: My personal opinion – and I emphasise the word personal – is that we should resist pressure to mess with Australia Day. 

I accept that January 26, 1788 was a disaster for the Indigenous population that had inhabited this country for around 40,000 years before white fellas arrived. And much of our history since, whether well intentioned or not, has not exactly covered us in glory. But that was a long time ago.

Today, like me, a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, most Australians alive today have no ancestral connection to the colonialists of the 18th century and can’t take responsibility for their deeds.

Despite that, I along with the majority of Australians of goodwill who, in 2007 voted the Rudd Labor government in, was happy to say “Sorry” to acknowledge past wrongs. 

Yet, for all the grand speeches made in parliament there was no mention of moving Australia Day back then. There was no mention of moving Australia Day during the bi-centennial celebrations of 1988 when the Hawke Labor government was in power. Nor was it mentioned during Paul Keating’s Prime Ministership when the steeply left leaning radio and newspaper commentator Phillip Adams was in charge of the Australia Day Council.

It seems incongruous to me that the further we go in time from events that occurred 230 years ago the more some groups wake to find themselves aggrieved. Sure, the victims of crimes committed 20, 30 or more years ago, while in the care of priests have every right to pursue justice and expect an apology from the Church. But I don’t think today’s clergy has any case left to answer for the Inquisition.

More importantly, Australia Day does not aim to evoke any sort of “victory” over the Indigenous community. Unlike the confederate symbols of the American south which still act as a rallying call to good ol’ boys and white supremacists, Australia Day sets out to celebrate our diversity and the most positive aspects of our society.

I have no problem with, perhaps, observing a minute’s silence on Australia Day to acknowledge events of the past, But Australia Day should stay where it has always been.

That, on balance by a small margin, is my personal opinion.

My professional opinion is something else.

If I were GM of, say, 2GB, knowing my audience well, along with them, I’d be outraged that triple j has taken it upon themselves to move The Hottest 100 to Jan 27. I would expect my station to be firmly on the side of keeping the status quo.

On the other hand, if I were the GM of triple j, knowing my audience well and had gone to great lengths to survey them just to make sure, as triple j has, I’d be obliged to go with the wishes of my listeners – not 2GB’s or any other station’s. 

What’s more, as my colleague, Emily Rolfe suggested, The Hottest 100 was conceived as a triple j event, not an Australia Day event. It has already moved dates several times and there’s not much history or tradition to anchor it to January 26.


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