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Page last updated at 05:41 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Rudd rejects Australia Day change

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Alice Springs, Australia

Aborigine with Australia flag, march by indigenous war veterans, Sydney April 08
Some indigenous Australians say the National Day is actually 'Invasion Day'

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has ruled out a change to the date of the national day which the country celebrates on 26 January.

A leading Aboriginal leader, Professor Mick Dodson, had called for a national debate on the question.

Mr Dodson has just been named Australian of the Year for his work in promoting indigenous issues.

He said that many Aboriginal Australians called the national day "Invasion Day".

Australia Day is a national celebration which commemorates the arrival of the First British fleet in 1788, and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the continent's eastern seaboard.

It is a public holiday in every state and territory, but many indigenous Australians refer to it as Invasion Day, since they claim it celebrates the destruction of Aboriginal culture by the British settlers.

Let me say a simple, respectful, but straightforward no
PM Kevin Rudd, on suggestions Australia Day be changed

The debate has been reopened by Professor Dodson, who said that Australia Day offends many indigenous citizens, and that a debate about moving the date would be important to the ongoing process of reconciliation.

But Kevin Rudd, who last year delivered a formal apology to Aboriginal Australians for past injustices, has rejected the idea.

"Let me say," he said, "a simple, respectful, but straightforward no".

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