ALDI promoting Terra Nullius on t-shirts
ALDI Australia has been promoting a range of t-shirts and other products for sale from 11 January for Australia Day. Among the light-hearted slogans, the green-and-gold, the red-white-blue, are some bearing the words, “Australia Est. 1788”. I picked this up from someone else’s tweet last night (thanks, @hyperskip) and composed a fresh tweet mentioning the ALDI Twitter account.
This picked up quite a bit of interest (compared with most of my other Twitter output), and in the morning I received a mention from ALDI, apologising for any offence taken and saying that feedback had been passed on.
I don’t think that’s enough. I don’t want to see ALDI selling these t-shirts at all, so I’ve written a more detailed communication to ALDI, reproduced below. Their web form allows 1,400 characters, so I couldn’t say everything that I wanted to.
I am writing to complain about some of the Australia Day clothing that you have advertised on your website as being for sale from this Saturday, 11 January. At least two of the items depicted have the wording, “Australia Est. 1788”. This is historically inaccurate, culturally insensitive, and even offensive and racist.
Australia Day on 26 January marks the arrival of the First Fleet of settlers and convicts from the United Kingdom in 1788, to establish the colony of New South Wales. If anything can be said to have been established in 1788, it is New South Wales. The modern nation of Australia was not established until Federation in 1901. Australia as a named geographic location – an island and a continent – existed in 1788, but was not named or otherwise established at that time.
In 1788 Australia was already inhabited by the world oldest continuous living culture, and many of the descendants of those first Australians view 26 January as the anniversary of an invasion, not of the founding of a new nation. To sell t-shirts for people to wear on that day suggesting that Australia was established then is wrong and offensive. It reinforces the discredited view of Australia as ‘Terra Nullius’, suggesting that no-one owned the land before the arrival of Europeans.
Please withdraw the offensive items from sale. It puts reconciliation back decades.
I do celebrate Australia Day, because it is our national day, and I want to acknowledge the things that are good about the place I have chosen to make my home. I know that the date itself is difficult for some of my fellow Australians – you know, the ones whose place in Australia as a modern nation was only “established” in 1967 – and I would be happy to see the date changed away from one of pain. I’m also happy to wave the flag and even wear its colours on a t-shirt, although I’d be keen to see a different flag (I’m a rebellious ex-Pom who has never seen the Union Flag in a positive light).
Any suggestion that Australia was “established” in 1788 is wrong on so many levels.
Oh yes, ALDI’s customer service comment form, for those who feel inclined>