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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

DFAT denies memo urging them to act ‘inclusive’ on Australia Day was official

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has said that a memo sent to staff prior to Australia Day urging them to act “inclusively” towards Indigenous Australians is not an official document and should not be distributed.

This comes after the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and other media outlets reported on January 26 about an internal email from an acting DFAT officer working on the Pacific, inviting DFAT staff to “learn” Australia’s history during colonial times.

“It should not be left exclusively to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to recognize the realities of their history and what this date means,” the email says, according to SMH.

“Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have mixed feelings about the celebration of this day. Some consider it a day of mourning, while others use the day to mark the survival of their current traditions and cultures.”

It also emerged that DFAT staff said they were “embarrassed” by the content of the email, which they felt was an “insult” to their intelligence.

Protesters take part in the “Invasion Day” demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney on January 26, 2022. (Photo by Steven Safor/AFP)

In response to the reports, DFAT released an explanatory note on Wednesday stating: “This is not an official or authorized document from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and should not have been circulated.”

Australians are divided on the approach of the official national day of Australia, which marks the declaration of British sovereignty over the east coast of the country.

On Thursday, thousands of people took part in “Invasion Day” rallies across the country and gathered in Canberra to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal tent embassy.

In Melbourne, protesters painted red paint over a statue of Captain Cook, the British explorer who discovered Australia.

The Epoch Times Photo
Protesters take part in the “Invasion Day” demonstration on Australia Day in Sydney on January 26, 2022. (Photo by Steven Safor/AFP)

But despite growing media coverage of the Indigenous Defenders’ message, a poll of Australians about changing the date of the national day found that a growing majority of Australians did not see the change as necessary, and a Roy Morgan poll found that 65 percent of Australians believed January. 26 should be considered Australia Day. This is 6% more than in 2021.

However, among those under 30, the numbers were reversed, with 64 percent viewing the day as Invasion Day.

Marina Zhang contributed to the report.

Nina Nguyen

To follow

Nina Nguyen is a Vietnamese reporter based in Sydney who specializes in Australian news. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.

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