As another Australia Day approaches, our country’s past remains an uncomfortable subject. Australia Day is an opportunity to come together to reflect on our history, value our diversity and celebrate that we are all Australian. Unfortunately, this day is generally accompanied by a lack of awareness, conversations and understanding of what the day symbolises to Indigenous Australians.
January 26th is a historically contentious date and attracts criticisms for failing to encompass all Australians. This day marks the beginning of dispossession and discrimination that Indigenous Australians suffered. As a result, many Indigenous Australians recognise January 26th as a day of invasion. Invasion Day or Survival Day is a commemoration of the loss of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereign rights to land, loss of family, loss of the right to practice traditional culture.
Australia is the only nation in the world that celebrates its national day on the date which colonisation occurred. The events that occurred during the European colonisation of Australia should not be swept under the carpet. Mutual recognition and acknowledgement of what has happened in the past is essential to establishing a future that genuinely celebrates Australia – and ultimately the range of ways that people live as “an Australian”.
Professor Yin Paradies of Deakin University has noted in his research Indigenous Australians constitute approximately 2.4% of the Australian population and suffer from disadvantage across a range of social, economic and health indicators compared to other Australians; including exposure to racism across all domains of contemporary Australian society. These are ongoing issues that have stemmed from the policies and practices originating from early settlement. It must be remembered that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations had change forced upon them with the coming of European laws, values and social constructs.
What should Australia Day be about?
Ideally, the future may hold an opportunity to forge a new national day. For that to happen we should utilise this day to engage in debate on issues of national identity and values. Australia Day offers genuine opportunities to celebrate our achievements and ALL that makes our country what it is today. Australia Day should always be a reflection on how to progress and build as a nation. This only occurs through acknowledgement of the past and celebration of its changes and achievements. Here are some actions and discussions you can engage in on Australia Day:
- Supporting the RECOGNISE campaign – this movement aims to achieve fairness and respect at the heart of our Constitution, and to remove discrimination from it. This is a chance for Australians to acknowledge the first chapter of our national story, and to forge our future together – after so many chapters apart. http://www.recognise.org.au
- Acknowledging and increasing awareness of discrimination towards Indigenous Australians – education is one of the best ways of preventing racism http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/racism-in-aboriginal-australia#top
- Acknowledging Indigenous contributions to building the Australian Nation including the celebration of Indigenous recipients of the Australian of the Year Award such as Adam Goodes, Lionel Rose and Mick Dodson.
- Encouraging debate around recognising 1901 Federation as an alternate Australia Day.
- Participating in a minute of silence for the Indigenous Australians who lost their lives and lands due to the British invasion of Australia.
What are some other ways we can acknowledge this day?