I’m a white Australian. I live a much easier life, thanks to my skin colour, than my Indigenous brothers and sisters in Australia. I grew up sheltered from much of the truth about how Colonialism and racism resulted in the decimation of Indigenous Australians. I was taught that Australia Day was both a public holiday, and a day to celebrate being Australian.
And I slowly learnt better.
Today I don’t celebrate Australia Day. I listen to the Triple J Hottest 100, I celebrate my anniversary with Scott, and I read about what Indigenous Australians are thinking about or doing today. I appreciate a public holiday, but we can have public holidays any time of year. There is nothing to celebrate in the invasion of this country and the resulting decimation of the Indigenous inhabitants. Today should be a day of mourning.
And enough about me, read some great writing from Indigenous people about racism, Invasion Day, and survival.
The true nature of the Frontier Wars is rarely taught in schools and most our massacre sites go unrecognised by the mainstream. Yet Anzac Day is made a public holiday so the country can commemorate the sacrifices of those who fought a foreign war on foreign shores. This is a prime example of white Australia’s denial and guilt. Maybe it’s just too close to home, too unsettling for them to acknowledge that the land they stand on was stolen, drenched in the blood and suffering of our Aboriginal ancestors. The longer they exclude or sugarcoat the whole truth from the curriculum, the longer non-Indigenous Australians will remain ignorant.
Australians can take responsibility for what their ancestors did and maybe find a true meaning to their identity by firstly encouraging the teaching of real history pre- and post-1788. They could go further to understand that not all Aboriginal people want to be recognised in the Australian constitution, and that voting in any election on this issue is an assertion of their privilege.
Luke Pearson (whom I hope that one day I will actually get to meet and buy a drink/meal for) writes at IndigenousX (which he also founded):
If we ever do change the date of Australia Day, it will most likely just become another such ‘moment’.
What words can I write that will have an impact on this? What ‘moment’ can I create for people that will make you realise that ‘moments’ are not just worthless, they can actually be dangerous? What can I say to make people want to give up the benefits of white privilege, and the good feeling that comes from being a good white saviour? How can I help make people see that the reason I write is not for them to have a moment, but in the hopes that it will help bring about change?
But how deep down the rabbit hole are people willing to go? All those people who signed the pledge or who tweet the slogan ‘Racism it stops with me’, how willing are they to make that slogan a reality? What happens when they are told that doesn’t just mean standing up to other people but might also mean taking a look inside themselves? This is what we will need to happen to bring truth the idea that ‘it stops with me’. Because at the moment, from where I am sitting, it never stops.
The awesome Celeste Liddle writes at NITV:
This reinforcement of Australia Day as a day of jingoistic pride was, in my view, a product of the Howard years. In his time as Prime Minister, John Howard would frequently reiterate need to show pride in this country while labelling the attempts by Indigenous activists and historians to bring the true nature of colonisation to the public’s attention as being “black armband” views – just focussed on negatives.
As a person who takes a strong stance in favour of the negotiation of a treaty, I therefore tend to not be too supportive of the calls of many Aboriginal people and our allies to change the date of Australia Day so it doesn’t commemorate the invasion. In my reckoning, until there is a treaty there will be no other date to celebrate the birth of this nation on. And to be honest, I’ve never really understood why non-Indigenous Australia wouldn’t want the opportunity to start afresh. The 26th of January also commemorates the day some of the poorest and most desperate citizens of Great Britain were dumped on the shore of a land halfway across the world to undertake years of cruel labour as punishment for stealing loaves of bread. The opportunity to commemorate the day we come to the table, as equals, and negotiate the way this country moves forward, would indeed make me proud of this country and our ability to work toward a better future. Until then, I much prefer the idea of Invasion Day remaining a day of Indigenous protest and the assertion of sovereignty.
The answer is also not for white Australia to include more Aboriginal people in Australia Day events. It’s not to get more Aboriginal people to sing the National Anthem in public. It’s not to include a welcome to country ceremony before ignoring what this ceremony means. It’s not to misappropriate our iconography as a way of selling your meat. Doing all this merely erases our history and assimilates our identity.
Stan Grant’s speech about racism and the Australian Dream, from a debate in 2015 hosted by The Ethics Centre:
I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges.
It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains. We were shot on those plains, disease ravaged us on those plains.
I come from those plains. I come from a people west of the Blue Mountains, the Wiradjuri people, where in the 1820’s, the soldiers and settlers waged a war of extermination against my people. Yes, a war of extermination! That was the language used at the time. Go to the Sydney Gazette and look it up and read about it. Martial law was declared and my people could be shot on sight. Those rugged mountain ranges, my people, women and children were herded over those ranges to their deaths.