Words || Ashley Regan
As a child Australia Day was always a BBQ or beach day to spend with family and friends, where I would wake up to the sound of my neighbors blasting Waltzing Matilda. As I grew older it became entirely centered around Triple J’s hottest 100 and a hard core drinking day filled with VB’s and goon. Although from childhood to adolescence what didn’t change was layering myself in Australian flag temporary tattoos and wearing Australian merch bought from Aldi. It wasn’t until three years ago where Triple J raised the problems with celebrating Australia Day I realised how fucked up the nation’s day of pride is. I can have a BBQ or go to the beach any day and since the Hottest 100 is on the 27th, there is nothing appealing about the 26th anymore. This is why instead of playing Goon of Fortune at a house party, I decided to lose my protest virginity and take part in the Invasion Day rally to stand with our First Nation community.
There are three sides to this debate; keep, change and abolish. The opinion held with older generations and all of our Prime Ministers, is to leave the date as it is. In their opinion the 26th celebrates the arrival of Captain Cook in 1788 and how our country has progressed forward because of western influence. But the first fleet did not land on the 26th, it is more likely to be the 18-20th of January and our country continues to abuse our nation’s first people including increasing rates of Indigenous incarceration and Aboriginal children making up 40% of out-of-home care system. The specific date has no solid foundation as the celebration has only taken place on the 26th since 1994, being celebrated on several other dates over 200 years of history.
For Change the Date supporters, the 26th marks the long history of dispossession and trauma for Aboriginals where British military forces invaded Gadigal land and declared British rule over this continent, along with Aotearoa and other pacific islands. It celebrates European settlement as the primary source of national identity and pride. They believe celebrating Australia day is important because all Australians should come together to celebrate our country, but this should not be on the 26th. Another date could instead embody the shared values of modern Australia, separate from European settlement, while recognising the 60 000 years of pre-colonial history and 231 years of multicultural migration to Australia. Abolish the Date supporters are quite similar, but slightly more radical. Their opinion is the same as change the date supporters, although they believe there is nothing to be celebrated because Indigenous people are still being abused. Supporters of Keep and Save the Date are neglecting the facts that colonialism today continues to abuse Indigenous communities with new legislations enforced. Specifically, just three months ago NSW legalised ‘Adoption Without Parental Consent’ meaning Indigenous people are forced to give up their children if the government decides. This will lead to another stolen generation. When Captain Cook arrived 231 years ago, he slaughtered and tried to erase Indigenous people’s culture.
Now our government is continuing to erase the oldest culture in the world. Different leader but same idea. By abolishing the date, Australia would be truly accepting their wrongs towards the Indigenous community and leading the future to include indigenous cultures and contributions as a part of our country.
When I arrived to the ginormous circle at Hyde Park I decided to join in from the back. The rally officially started at eleven, but the half an hour before was spent chanting words of support for our Indigenous community.
The speaker began, “Always was always will be,”
“Aboriginal land,” was the reply.
“They say accident,”
“We say murder.”
“They say Australia day,”
“We say Invasion day.”
To begin the rally, local community elders and youth put on a smoke ceremony in traditional language, clothing, musical instruments and dancing. “We’re still very much alive and still practicing our culture,” said the leader.
Following the ceremony were talks by campaign leaders, including Leetona Dungay who spoke about the brutal murder of her son in custody. She explained how the police harass minorities and in response, people from all directions of the crowd screamed out “shame”, “murderer”.
Gomeroi elder, Sue-Ellen Tighe spoke on the new adoption laws, stating that after Kevin Rudd said ‘sorry’, child removal increased by 400%. “We need to make sure the movement is strong to make people know we aren’t going anywhere. To make sure this generation isn’t stolen. Australia needs to face up to their criminal shames, arrest the murders and stop the kidnapping. We need to take back our power; this always was and will be our Aboriginal land”.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge also addressed his concerns, “Today was the day of invasion. This is not the day to celebrate Australia. We don’t just need to change the date we need to change the country, that’s our job. We need to stop making the laws to kill their history. We need to reverse these laws and bring in new laws to support the Indigenous community”. As far as the Labour and Liberal parties, neither of them have reduced the harassment. The Greens are the only party with flags waving in the crowd and a political leader standing in the middle of the crowd speaking to support first Nations people. I always have and always will be voting for the Greens.
The rally organisers FIRE, wrapped up with wise words “Genocide still occurs today, abolish the settler colony forever. Invasion didn’t happen 213 years ago it’s happening today”.
The 10,000 of us protestors began the march stretching three city blocks, from Hyde Park to Victoria Park. We walked in the middle of the busiest roads of the CBD, holding colourful signs, wearing supportive merchandise and screaming our chants. To finish off the rally, we were welcomed by the Yabun Festival which celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, filled with independent Indigenous stalls, live music and an abundance of food.
Dozens of cities around Australia have gotten the right idea and have decided to not celebrate Australia day on the 26th. Specifically, Mayor of Fremantle, Brad Pettitt, has moved Australia day festivities on the 27th. He told SBS, “This is a conversation we need to have if we ever really want to be a country that actually can celebrate itself, that has a strong sense of the past and is proud of its history, its pre-Western history as well as its more recent history”. I hope Sydney is next to join this movement.
Why does this nation stop for a horse race, sport grand finals, the Queen’s birthday, ANZAC day, but we never stop to respect the traditional owners of the land and the suffering they have and continue to endure? In my opinion we should abolish Australia Day and celebrate Triple J’s Hottest 100 the next day instead, complete with tacky merch and goon sacks. With rallies getting bigger every year, don’t hesitate to get involved, the crowd is extremely welcoming. If you’ve missed out this year, you can still get involved with the fight for Ingenious inclusion by attending the 13th of February rally to “stop forced adoptions” in Hyde Park.