As the conversation on the date for Australia Day reaches fever pitch, several music industry leaders and their brands are taking a stand and encouraging staff to follow suit.
UNIFIED Music Group, Untitled Group and Stephen Hunt’s Music Health are among the organisations that are showing solidary to the “change the date” movement, by allowing employees to work Jan. 26 as a typical work day, and taking the following day, Jan. 27, as a work-free one.
“At UNIFIED Music Group, we’ve been reflecting on our values and how, as a group, we impact and engage with the world around us,” writes Jaddan Comerford, founder and CEO of UNIFIED, the Melbourne indie music empire, in a social post.
“In light of the ongoing conversation about the negative impact of January 26 on Australian First Nations’ peoples, we’ve decided to allow our Australian-based team members to choose if they work or not on this date in 2023 and into the future. I personally will be working on January 26.”
He continues, “We stand in solidarity with the #changethedate movement and have encouraged our team and those around us to educate themselves on this issue.”
Australia Day, the official national day, is held on the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet, but many indigenous and First Nations people observe the annual holiday as a day of mourning — as “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day.”
In the social media age, an awakening, and a broader conversation on whether the date best represents an inclusive Australia.
Comerford shared a message to staff, which reads: “For many, January 26 marks invasion, the beginning of colonisation and remains a day of mourning for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples.”
As we grow, he writes, “UNIFIED will keep challenging cultural norms to create a workplace that encourages our people to live their truth. Our people can feel safe to bring their whole self to work, their lifestyle, beliefs, and passions.”
Untitled Group, the Melbourne-based live events business that operates Beyond The Valley, Pitch Music & Arts, Wildlands, Grapevine Gathering, For The Love and Ability Fest, has liaised with UNIFIED through the process and is taking a similar approach.
“The 26th of January is not a day for celebration,” reads a memo from Untitled directors.
“We wish to make this stand not just as an individual company but together as an industry in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to support the #changethedate movement.”
As part its efforts to educate staff, Georgia Old, Untitled Group’s publicity & social impact coordinator, Yorta Yorta woman and Aboriginal activist, will present to the team.
It’s hoped staff will gain “an understanding of the true history of January 26th, including the events that occurred in 1788, how the protests began and developed and how staff can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this date (and beyond),” the message continues.
Triple J was arguably the loudest voice, if not ground zero, in the music community’s response on Australia Day, on which it traditionally anchored its popular Hottest 100 countdown.
The youth broadcaster asked its listeners by way of a questionnaire, back in August 2016.
The results were heavily in favour of shifting the Hottest 100 to a different date, at 60 per cent.
Triple J listened, and acted. Now, the hottest songs of the year are counted down on the Saturday immediately following the controversial date.
It was around the time of that initial call-out when the-then Liberal government floated plans to sell off and privatise the ABC, an act many saw as both as an act of cultural vandalism and a threat, intended to punish the public-funded broadcaster for its open defiance.
Former communications minister Mitch Fifield laid-out his government’s position.
“The ABC shouldn’t be buying into this debate,” he said in a statement in 2017. “Australia Day is our national day. The ABC should honor it and not mess with the Hottest 100.”
Fifield went on to say he was “bewildered” by the decision and that he’d ask the board of the state-funded ABC, which has the ultimate programming and editorial responsibility, to “reconsider.”
The debate rumbles on across the country, and beyond the core music industry.
Kmart recently announced it wouldn’t stock Australia Day-themed merchandise in its stores nationwide, a move that was praised by some as a step forward, and met with contempt from right wing media.
Read the messages to UNIFIED and Untitled staff.
In solidarity with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, UNIFIED Music Group will no longer recognise Australia/Invasion Day as a public holiday on January 26.
We support Australian based team members to still take January 26 off if they wish, but we will also be providing the option to take January 27 as an alternative public holiday.
For many, January 26 marks invasion, the beginning of colonisation and remains a day of mourning for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples.
As we grow, UNIFIED will keep challenging cultural norms to create a workplace that encourages our people to live their truth. Our people can feel safe to bring their whole self to work, their lifestyle, beliefs, and passions.
Please ensure that you communicate your intentions with your manager ahead of the public holiday.
UNIFIED Music Group looks forward to a time where a new date can be established for an inclusive national holiday for all people in this country. We encourage you to support First Nations artists and entrepreneurs, by doing one of the following on January 26:
* Watch ‘The Australian Dream’ documentary
* Purchase merchandise from ‘Clothing The Gaps’ and read this article.
* Attend ‘Share Spirit The Festival’ headlined by Dan Sultan at Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne
* Donate to the GO Foundation or Children’s Ground
Tomorrow, we stand in solidarity with our First Peoples to acknowledge Australia’s dark history and continuing trauma of occupation.
At Untitled Group, we are treating the 26th January as a regular working day and offering staff an alternative day off on the 27th of January.
The 26th of January is not a day for celebration. We wish to make this stand not just as an individual company but together as an industry in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, to support the #changethedate movement.
As part of our efforts to educate our team, Untitled Group’s Publicity & Social Impact Coordinator, Yorta Yorta woman and Aboriginal Activist – Georgia Old, will be presenting to the team in the office tomorrow.
This presentation will provide our staff with an understanding of the true history of January 26th, including the events that occurred in 1788, how the protests began and developed and how staff can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this date (and beyond).
The presentation will be followed by an open forum for staff to ask any questions they may have.
We acknowledge these efforts are only a small step in our ongoing efforts to educate ourselves on the challenges faced by our First Nations Peoples and how we can better show our support and advocate for change.