13 January 2023

Ormond Chiu: “Of our top five countries of birth excluding Australia, three are Asian countries (China, India, the Philippines), and one in ten now have a religion other than Christianity. As our population becomes increasingly diverse, we should be recognising many other significant cultural and religious days as public holidays to reflect this change. There has already been discussion about making Diwali a public holiday and given Australia already likes to boast that Sydney has one of the largest Lunar New Year celebrations outside of Asia, it seems like a no brainer to embrace them as Australian public holidays. It is far from a radical idea. While we mythologise ourselves as the ‘land of the long weekend’, many countries in the Indo-Pacific region have more public holidays than Australia because of their multicultural makeup. Neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia recognise a range of diverse cultural and religious days as public holidays whether it be Buddha’s birthday, Diwali, Lunar New Year, Eid or Christmas Day. It is also not without precedent in Australia. On Christmas Island, Lunar New Year is a public holiday, and on both Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Eid is. … The debate over whether to change Australia Day shows us the symbolic power that public holidays can have on our national narrative and sense of identity. The impact of a more inclusive approach to public holidays would go far beyond our shores. … The message would be that Australia does not just talk about how it is a successful multicultural country, our society genuinely recognises that our cultural and religious diversity is important for every single Australian”.