Removing Religion from Public Holidays

The majority of public holidays in Australia have nothing to do with being Australian. Days that are celebrated include, New Years Day, Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas and Boxing Day (except SA). Other common days, although they are celebrated on different days in each state, include, Labour Day and Queen’s Birthday.

Eureka Flag and Sculpture by Takver (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With the movement to relocate Australia Day gaining intensity – it’s been an issue since 1938 – it prompted me to think about our other holidays and with the exception of ANZAC Day they hold no conclusive bearing on anything to do with our country. I agree that they did at one point, but this is no longer the case. Especially with what I call the religion holidays. In a multicultural society mandatory religious public holidays are more divisive than inclusive. I for one do not celebrate any religious holiday and while I would not support any policy that takes away a persons right to freedom of religion, I think that removing these holidays from our calendar to be a sign of a progressive nation.

What I would propose is a system where these holidays are replaced with ones that have significance to Australian Cultural events. For those in the workforce that feel the need to have certain days off in order to celebrate their chosen religion, an employer could be compelled to accept any request for time off to attend a religious gathering on nominated days. This could be limited to four days, which would cover the current public holidays and result in no change – for those without religion it could be any four days of their choosing – but the important issue is that an employer cannot say no. However an employee should nominate what religion they follow at the time of employment.

The removal of religious days as public holidays would be of benefit to companies, as some of the exorbitant penalty rates and trading restrictions applied to these days would also be removed. This is inline with the recent decision to alter the penalty rates for Sunday. Which was most likely brought in to benefit those that were asked to work on the Sabbath, which holds little bearing on today’s society.

Wall of Poppies – Rememberance Day

Of the other public holidays, only ANZAC day is a true Australian cultural holiday as it affects all Australians. Australia Day should be relocated to January 1, and replace New Years Day. Labor Day is celebrated with the Moomba Festival in Victoria, a change to Moomba Day would not be a hard push. Queen’s Birthday has ties to Australia being an English Colony, but since the signing of the Australia Act in 1986 all possibilities for British involvement in the country were ceased.

In Victoria, we have two days that celebrate sporting events, Melbourne Cup Day and AFL Grand Final Day. While I am not a supporter of either of these days, they at least have some symbolism on what it is to be Australian – as we are a sporting nation. But what of our other achievements? We have nothing to celebrate our native culture or our scientific and artistic achievements, should these not get a look in? The religious holidays have a stranglehold on how we celebrate as a nation.

In the recent Australian Census (2016) it has been made clear that the new dominant religion is no religion (30.1%), although this statistic is only dominant when the branches of Christianity are separate, but I would argue that a Catholic and an Anglican would not agree that they are the same. I believe it is time to start moving away form elements that do nothing but help divide the country and make it harder to be the true multicultural melting pot that many people, especially politicians, claim that we are.

Do you agree of disagree? What suggestions do you have for new Australian public holidays? Feel free to comment below.

Feature Image: Other Religion by Tom Rolfe (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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