There have been many reflections on the nature of a national celebration in Australia on January 26. It is true – verified by the High Court of Australia – that sovereignty over this land was never ceded by any group of Indigenous people. We must now look to ways to unite our nation, gain yet more history in solidarity with the First Nations as we celebrate together. A national day must unite.
January 26: Australia Day, Day of Mourning, Survival Day.
A day that marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
A day that was described by Aboriginal leaders – back in 1938 —— as a Day of Mourning. A day that was only gazetted as a national holiday in 1994.
As Australia’s national day, it should be a day that unites all Australians: a day that we can all, together, celebrate what it means to be Australian: to take pride in our country’s achievements and long and extraordinary history, a country that can recognise the special place Aboriginal and Tones Snait islander people have in modern Ausnalia and celebrate their survival and resilience as the world’s longest continuing culture.
But is this a date on which we can all celebrate the uniqueness of our country?
How can we celebrate on a clay that for our First Peoples represents the beginning of an unlawful invasion that has had devastating impacts – impacts still felt by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities today?
And how can we celebrate a day that an increasing number of Australians feel is not an appropriate date for a truly inclusive national day?
As a nation, it is important to have a continuing and respectful conversation about the date of our national day.
Reconciliation Victoria, the state’s peak Reconciliation organisation, reoently wrote to the Mayors and CEOs of all of Victoria’s 79 councils encouraging them to carefully consider how they commemorate this day, urging them to consult with their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about their approach to January 26. Belinda Duarte, Co-Chair of Reconciliation Victoria, explains “by increasing awareness of our history, all Australians will be richer in their identity and further understand why Australia Day evokes strong emotions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal people”.
A number of councils have already opted to change how they mark this day. Many now include an acknowledgement of the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and culture as part of the day’s commemorations. Some, such as Ballarat, Port Phillip and Whittlesea, have included a Survival Day Dawn Gathering; some are planning to fly the flag at half mast in recognition of the ongoing effects of, the invasion on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; and others, such as Darebin, Yarra and Moreland, have decided to celebrate on another day altogether.
So this Australia Day, consider what this day signifies and ask yourself if it truly represents the Australia we want to live in ~ one that is inclusive and respectful, and one in which We can all feel pride in a remarkable shared history.
Ask your local council, and in particular your local councillors, how their council is planning to acknowledge the complexities of this day in a respectful manner.
As for yourself, be curious and educate yourself. Reading more about the history of Australia during colonial times, such as during the frontier wars, or about the experience of Aboriginal people can enhance understanding of the different perspectives on January 26.
Find out more about the history of the place in which you live and the Aboriginal connection to these traditional lands that continues today. The information is there, and in most cases, is a mere click away. Consider sharing your new knowledge: have respectful conversations with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about what you’ve learned and how this may influence our views about January 26.
Source: Shepparton News, Monday 20 January 2020
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