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Communications Minister Paul Fletcher slams ABC for referring to Australia Day as 'Invasion Day'

The federal communications minister has slammed the ABC for referring to Australia Day as 'Invasion Day'.

The national broadcaster published an online events guide on Sunday interchangeably using a politically contentious term to describe the January 26 public holiday commemorating the British First Fleet's 1788 arrival in Sydney Cove.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has spoken about against this ABC article. 

'The ABC online article is incorrect about Australia Day,' he said on Monday.

'The ABC has clearly got this one wrong.

The federal communications minister has slammed the ABC for referring to Australia Day as 'Invasion Day'. The national broadcaster published an events guide on Sunday interchangeably using a contentious term to describe the January 26 public holiday commemorating the First Fleet's 1788 arrival in Sydney Cove. Pictured is a 2019 Invasion Day protest in Brisbane

'The name of our national day is well understood and supported, and for the ABC to suggest otherwise - that in some way Invasion Day is interchangeable with Australia Day  - is clearly wrong.'

The initial article, which has now been slightly amended, was titled 'Australia Day/Invasion Day 2021 events for Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin'.

The national public holiday was described as 'one of the most polarising dates on the Australian calendar' because it marked  'a day of sorrow for the colonisation of an ancient culture'.

'For some First Nations people, it is a day to mourn the past and galvanise the community to address ongoing systemic racial injustice,' the ABC public holiday guide said.

'For others, it's a chance to spend time with family and friends at the beach or around barbecues.'

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has spoken about against this ABC article. 'The ABC online article is incorrect about Australia Day,' he said on Monday.

The ABC defended the decision to use the terms interchangeably as it would be 'inappropriate' to demand its' staff to refer to one or the other.

Jacinta Price, the indigenous deputy mayor of Alice Springs in central Australia, has campaigned to keep the date as is, arguing symbolism would do nothing to tackle alcohol and sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities

Mr Fletcher, who represents the safe Liberal electorate of Bradfield on Sydney's wealthy upper north shore, said the article was inaccurate. 

'While the ABC has editorial independence, and I do not control what it says, I call on the ABC to correct this inaccurate article,' he said.

'The obligation on the ABC Board is clear under the Act: to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news is accurate and impartial.'

Not all indigenous Australians are opposed to Australia Day being celebrated on January 26 every year.

Jacinta Price, the deputy mayor of Alice Springs in central Australia, has campaigned to keep the date as is, arguing symbolism would do nothing to tackle alcohol and sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities.

The councillor, who has Warlpiri heritage on her mother's side, was also a Country Liberal Party candidate at the 2019 federal election in the Labor-held seat of Lingiari.

Ken Wyatt, the Liberal federal Minister for Indigenous Australians, also supports keeping Australia Day on January 26.

He made history in 2010 as the first Aboriginal candidate to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Australia Day has been a national public holiday since 1994 after it was previously recogised in some states.

Indigenous activists have since 1938 protested against commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour arguing the arrival of British people eventually led to the dispossession of land. 

The movement against recognising January 26 gathered momentum in 1988 when indigenous activists held protests during the bicentenary commemoration that featured a tall ships re-enactment on Sydney Harbour.

The movement against recognising January 26 gathered momentum in 1988 when indigenous activists held protests during the bicentenary commemoration. Pictured are Invasion Day protesters in 2020

Nonetheless, Mr Fletcher said Australia Day needed to be respected as a nationally recognised public holiday.

'The name of Australia Day is reflected in legislation across Australia. More important, it is reflected in the usage of the overwhelming majority of Australians,' he said.

Last year, Mr Fletcher complained to ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose after the Four Corners program 'Inside the Canberra bubble' suggested cabinet ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter had formed relationships with staff.

Some indigenous rights activists have suggested Federation in 1901, when Australia became a nation, was a more appropriate day for a national public holiday but this coincides with New Year's Day. 

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