As fierce debate about changing the date of Australia Day rages on social media, across dinner tables and in pubs throughout the country, Tasmanian of the Year Scott Rankin steers clear of taking sides.
Instead, Mr Rankin welcomes the debate as a sign of a country trying to find a way to tell its own story as it grapples with its past.
“Contemporary Australia is very young and is struggling to find the maturity to be inclusive and to live with the way this country has emerged,” he said.
“What it (the Australia Day debate) needs is for the community to listen to all the less included stories, to hear and have the maturity to open up to include those stories, especially the things we haven’t heard before, and deepen the story of Australia.”
Storytelling is something Mr Rankin is all too familiar with through his role as co-founder of BIGhART, a social justice enterprise that’s spent the past 25 years using art to tell the stories of disadvantaged and marginalised communities.
Those who argue January 26 shouldn’t be celebrated because it marks the start of an Aboriginal genocide have been increasingly telling their story.
Mr Rankin believes telling these types of stories changes how Australia narrated its story. After all, he said, the notion that celebrating January 26 was offensive didn’t register so strongly on the national consciousness a decade ago.
Australia Day will take its own course as we continue to write new chapters.
Scott Rankin, Tasmanian of the Year
Mr Rankin said it was important to remember that no country has a static story.
“Countries are evolving stories and there’s certain groups of people who can dominate in the storytelling, the narration of that nation, but it’s the telling of that story that makes up the future of that country,” he said.
While Mr Rankin loves the Australia Day debate, he loathes the political grandstanding and “self-righteousness” of some of those involved.
“It doesn’t have to be politicised. It doesn’t have to be used by political parties on both sides of the fence to dog whistle to their constituents,” he said.
“We have to be more mature than that.”