For the past 29 years, Australian alternative radio station Triple J has been counting down the “Hottest 100” hits of every year as voted by its listeners. It is widely acknowledged as the largest music poll in the world and the self-professed “world’s greatest music democracy.” Each year the countdown has aired during Australia Day on January 26; a public holiday right in the middle of the Australian summer.
The holiday itself commemorates when the British landed in Sydney harbor and became the first European settlers on the continent. It is traditionally a celebration of all things Australian and listening to the Hottest 100 has quickly become a national cultural tradition, with many using it as the soundtrack to their outdoor barbecues or pool parties.
However, for indigenous Australians the date is forever tied to white European colonization and indigenous land displacement. To them, Australia Day is simply known as “Invasion Day.”
Last year the date of the countdown came under scrutiny for these reasons, brought up by indigenous Australian rappers Briggs and Trials, otherwise known as A. B. Original. They even released a track called “January 26,” addressing many of these same concerns.
In a 2016 interview, Briggs explained as much. “The premise of Australia Day doesn’t resonate as a holiday for us,” he said. “The celebration is just a reminder of the history and things that haven’t been addressed whole-heartedly. It’s basically a farce of a holiday.”
Over the past year, Triple J has consulted with other indigenous artists featured on their station as well as indigenous rights groups. Now they are holding an online survey for listeners to vote on regarding whether the date for airing the countdown should be changed. An announcement should be made just in time for 2018’s list.
Many on both sides see the arguments for and against moving the date. While those supporting the change see the date as tainted; those against it, see January 26 as simply a public holiday with no historical baggage attached. It is yet to be determined what date may be selected if the majority of listeners vote “yes,” as Triple J have declined to comment on any results until the survey is complete.