It is common for today’s woke folk to gnash their teeth about Australia Day and propose changing it to another day and to call 26 January ‘invasion day’, a day of shame when the Aboriginal people were dispossessed.
Yet there is reason to celebrate both aspects of Australia’s history. The colonisation of Australia by the British brought the enlightenment to Australia and its numerous benefits. While many people did not live up to the principles and values of the enlightenment, and there are documented cases of abuses.
But it was unlikely to have been rosy pre 1770/1778. There is no documentary evidence of life pre-colonisation except for archaeological evidence. There were perhaps 500,000 humans living in Australia before 1788. They had lived many generations in a harsh continent passing on wisdom through an oral tradition.
It is true that some people suffered as a result of colonisation, directly and indirectly. Yet we do not know the counterfactual – what would life have been in an alternative timeline?
But the coming of enlightenment civilisation has been overwhelmingly a great achievement for Australia that should be celebrated. We have built a fantastic country populated by around 26 million enjoying living standards the envy of much of the world. If there had never been settlement (a highly unlikely outcome), the population would be less than one million. The gift of the enlightenment has brought high living standards to millions more. That is to be celebrated even though there remain Aboriginal communities in remote Australia which live in shocking poverty.