Just hours into his tenure, the new Australian of the Year for 2011, Simon McKeon, backed both ideas. He also backed indigenous protesters, who object to the 26th of January - the date the first white settlers arrived in Australia - as the date for the country's national celebration.
Presenter: Linda Mottram
Michael Mansell, Aboriginal activist; Simon McKeon, Australian of the Year; Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister; protesters
MOTTRAM: Chanting 'we won't celebrate invasion day', indigenous protesters and their supporters marched on the state parliament building in Tasmania, calling for a new date for the national day. The existing date, January 26 has long angered sections of Australia's indigenous community. Michael Mansell is a veteran aboriginal activist from Tasmania.
MANSELL: Because the only significant event that took place on January 26 in the history of this country is the coming to Australia of white people. Now that makes celebration of the coming to Australia of white people a race based celebration and naturally excludes aboriginal people immediately. The Australian people will celebrate any day. If we change the date they will still celebrate, so why don't we change the date?
MOTTRAM: There was also a small protest in Canberra also, reminding those at the national capital's Australia Day formalities about the many issues that continue to plague the country's indigenous communities.
PROTESTER: All of the issues that have ever been current are more current than ever. The intervention into the Northern Territory is an international criminal act and it has to stop right now. In Queensland we have had record numbers of deaths in custody. That's murder of aboriginal people by police over the last 12 months. People will not stop marching, will not stop acting until we get justice.
MOTTRAM: The question is also on the mind of the 2011 Australian Of The Year, Simon McKeon.
McKEON: If there is a day that a significant minority, but an important minority, of Australians is uncomfortable with, then that doesn't sound the right day to me.
MOTTRAM: It wouldn't happen overnight, he said, but the discussion should be had with a view to change over time.
Simon McKeon also backs an Australian republic.
McKEON: I think it's inevitable that this wonderful country of ours will transform into a republic one day, I'm not sure of the time frame or the process, but that will happen.
MOTTRAM: And with that, he says, will come a change to Australia's current flag, which still sports the British Union Jack.
McKEON: Look, my own view is that I think we can do better than the flag we have. But the more I say that, the more that ventilates that issue. So what I'm saying is let's focus for my part on whether we want to stand on our own two feet as an independent nation, or continue in the way we are at the moment.
MOTTRAM: Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was quick to throw her support behind the existing flag.
GILLARD: I'm a big advocate of the current Australian flag. We love it. People carrying it today. It's the Australian flag, we'll be sticking with it.
MOTTRAM: Ms Gillard has in the past supported a republic, but not until the reigning British monarch and current Australian head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, dies. Others, though, are pushing the flag issue now. The organisation Ausflag, that's committed to a change, has rallied more than a dozen former Australians of the Year in support of the cause, airing their position in the Fairfax press.
Political leaders were not commenting on any indigenous concerns about Australia Day. But those very concerns will be aired again this week, and internationally, with Australia due to undergo a review of its domestic human rights record at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.