Triple J Hottest 100: Can Changing the Date Really Change the Nation?

Triple J Hottest 100: Can Changing the Date Really Change the Nation?

Australia Day. Invasion Day. Hottest 100 Day. Survival Day.

These events all occur on the same date. January 26th. A more than touchy subject in Australia’s national calendar. January 26th 1788 was the day Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay and claimed this land for Britain. It marks the day Indigenous Australian’s lost their land, much of their culture and for many more than we realise, lost their lives. And it’s the day Australia celebrates its nationhood. Seems appropriate, right?

Well, thankfully the date of Australia’s national day of celebration is being debated. And at the moment, the focus is on the Hottest 100 Countdown – otherwise known as “the world’s largest music democracy” – which is broadcast nationwide by triple j, a government-funded radio station with a youth audience, on this very day. A recent online petition requested that triple j change the date of the countdown so as to not coincide with January 26th and thus to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Australians.

Last week, Indigenous Australian rappers Briggs and Trials, under the artist name of A.B.Original, stated that for triple j to change the date of the countdown would be “an obvious salute” towards Indigenous Australia and in particular, Indigenous musicians such as themselves.

The debate escalated yesterday when it was leaked that there had been serious discussion amongst triple j staff about changing the date of the countdown. It was announced later that day by the radio station, that in 2017, the Hottest 100 will remain on Australia Day – but discussion will be ongoing about future years.

On triple j’s Hack program, content director Ollie Wards stated that, “This isn’t something that just cropped up today. It’s been something we’ve been thinking about for quite a while.” The decision to change or not to change the date is a particularly difficult one for the station. The values of the station include championing Australian and especially Indigenous artists. Yet the station is a division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), an apolitical corporation. So any decision to move the date of the countdown, and now due to the ongoing debate, to not move it, becomes a political decision.

But whose decision is it to make? Ollie Wards is not Indigenous; in fact, he’s not even Australian. He jumped the ditch six years ago and has been living in Australia ever since.

“I’m not gonna make the call myself. I think I want to talk to as many people as I can get opinions from, that’s Indigenous people, it’s the artists we play, it’s our listeners, it’s everyone around Australia that has something to say about this” he said.

Hack presenter Tom Tilley made the point that triple j, as a part of the ABC, is a tax-payer funded service and thus should represent the views of the tax-payer. But what happens when the tax payers can’t agree?

Many people do not see the point in changing the date and comments on the triple j Facebook page have become quite heated.

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“It’s music for fuck sake!”

Sure, but music has the capacity to bring our entire nation together if we allow it. Right now having the countdown on January 26th excludes an entire community.

“Australia day is a public holiday and a day of celebration for a lot of people…Don’t let a minority sour the milk for everyone one!”

Oh, you mean the Indigenous population who were once the majority, but which 200 years of colonialism and oppression traumatically reversed?

Indigenous writer Nakkiah Lui told Hack that she doesn’t understand what the ABC will lose if the date is changed. “It’s exclusive and it’s not democratic and it’s against ABC values,” she said.

There are many voices, opinions and issues surrounding this debate. All of them deserve to be voiced and listened to. But ultimately the decision should be driven by the voices of those who are most deeply affected by this issue. Those who are excluded, once again, from a national identity. That is, the Indigenous population of Australia.

Because when someone tells you that you’ve hurt them, you don’t get to decide you haven’t. And when someone offers you a way to help fix it, you should respect the wishes of that person, or in this case, entire race of people. And right now, the Indigenous people of Australia are saying the date- of Australia Day and the Hottest 100- needs to change. And maybe triple j and its listeners can be leaders in this change.

It’s true that changing the date of the Hottest 100 from Australia Day will not reconcile our nation. It will not close the enormous social, economic and educational gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It won’t stop racial slurs from being called from AFL stands and it won’t stop the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians in jails.

What it will do is set a precedent within our country, that racism towards Indigenous Australians is condemned by our youth. It will condemn the abhorrent treatment of Indigenous Australians, past, present and future. It will signify our unity with the traditional owners of this land. It will be a step forward in the long, ongoing fight for Indigenous equality within Australia. And with a little persistence, it may just help change the day our nation celebrates the land we all call home. No matter how long you’ve been here for.