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(Australian Associated Press)
Australia Day should stay on January 26, respected foreign correspondent Peter Greste believes.
Mr Greste, who became a household name when imprisoned in Egypt, is an Australia Day NSW Ambassador and has pointed to the importance of tradition to argue for the current date.
“I’m happy with the day. I think the day is important; it is about tradition and continuity,” Mr Greste told reporters on Monday at the Sydney Opera House where many official festivities will take place on Australia Day.
“It is OK for the message to change, these things are constantly evolving over time, but I think the date needs to stay there.”
Mr Greste, who is the child of a refugee, said it’s important for Australians to constantly review what the national day signifies, but argues meanings can change.
He acknowledges the day is difficult for a lot of Aboriginal people and it is important to be inclusive.
“I think there is a tendency to be a bit more jingoistic with the celebrations … we need to do everything we can to celebrate that diversity as much as our Australian heritage.”
He says being locked in an Egyptian cell gave him a strong experience of mateship and made him really appreciate his Australian roots.
Becoming an ambassador was his way of giving something back and responding to the support he received, he added.
The controversy around the date was addressed by NSW Multicultural Minister John Ajaka as he announced details of the Sydney festivities, including a tall ships event.
“I don’t see it being a controversial day; I speak to many of our Indigenous Australians and many of the leaders and I see them first-hand with us celebrating this wonderful day,” Mr Ajaka said.
Western Australia’s City of Freemantle has cancelled its Australia Day celebrations this year and will host an event on January 28, while Meat and Lamb Australia tackled the controversy surrounding the date in its annual Australia Day ad, which avoids mentioning the name of the day.