Turnbull Government frontbencher Ken Wyatt believes Australia becoming a republic would provide the “resetting of the nation’s psyche” required to shift Australia Day from January 26.
As his coalition colleagues dismissed calls for the date to be changed yesterday, the Aboriginal MP for Hasluck said there needed to be a discussion about whether it was appropriate to celebrate Australia Day on the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet.
Mr Wyatt said it was “inevitable” that Australia would eventually break ties with the British monarchy and become a republic, providing an opportunity to reconsider when Australia celebrates its national day.
“We can’t just tear down structures that reflect contemporary points in time because of the historical points that were the basis for the changing of life for indigenous Australians,” Mr Wyatt said.
“There are painful memories, but equally we can’t create another wave of pain by rushing an important issue like this.
“Now is the time to have the conversations that results in an outcome that is important to everybody.”
Mr Wyatt also warned against letting the issue dominate the debate about indigenous affairs, urging Australians to focus on tackling Aboriginal disadvantage.
“In WA, I look at what’s happened in the Pilbara with Aboriginal kids, that shouldn’t happen in a First World country and yet we’re not tackling it with some gusto,” Mr Wyatt said.
“The gap in education across the nation, whilst we are having more and more Aboriginal kids go through to university, what about all those kids who at the end of 10 years of schooling cannot read and write?”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten yesterday dismissed indigenous ALP frontbencher Linda Burney’s suggestion of a separate holiday to celebrate Australia’s indigenous heritage, saying Australia already had enough public holidays.