Australia should introduce two extra public holidays to recognise our diverse cultural and religious populations, according to one think tank researcher.
Lowy Institute research fellow Osmond Chiu said Australia’s public holidays still reflected Western Christian traditions, despite fewer Aussies identifying as Christian and only a quarter of Aussies attending church once a year.
Chiu said Diwali and the Lunar New Year were two of the most obvious choices to add and noted that China, India and the Philippines were among our top five countries of birth excluding Australia.
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Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by millions of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists, while Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture.
“There has already been discussion about making Diwali a public holiday and, given Australia already likes to boast that Sydney has one of the largest Lunar New Year celebrations outside of Asia, it seems like a no-brainer to embrace them as Australian public holidays,” Chiu said.
Recognising a range of cultural and religious days as public holidays wasn’t a new idea, Chiu said, with countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia already doing so.
In fact, in Australia, Christmas Island recognises Lunar New Year and Eid as public holidays, while the Cocos (Keeling) Islands has a public holiday for Eid.
“Rather than fostering division, more public holidays would create a greater sense of unity by encouraging greater societal understanding of different beliefs and practices, normalising cultural pluralism in Australia,” Chiu said.
How many public holidays are there in Australia?
There are currently seven national public holidays in Australia: New Year’s Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day and Boxing Day.
All other public holidays, like Labour Day and the King’s Birthday, are declared by individual state and territory governments.
Declaring a public holiday wouldn’t create any new legislation, Chiu noted. As we saw with the National Day of Mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, the states and territories can declare a new holiday after giving some notice.