Australia Day? Invasion Day? Survival day.
I’ve had personal issue with January 26 for a while now. I grew up in Australia, and lived all but the last 5 years of my life there.
Whilst I grew up in white middle class privilege I was lucky enough to have good teachers all the way through my childhood that taught me and my fellow students to think for ourselves, and presented to us a more honest Australian history. Thank you to Mrs Lewis and Mrs Wolf amongst others.
I don’t like the idea of celebrating the white settlement of the glorious Australian continent and the ensuing violence, attempted genocide, rape and murder that was inflicted upon earths oldest culture as a result.
The story of black and white Australian relations since 1788 has been one of sadness and discrimination, legalised murder and attempted extermination. It continues to this day with racist military interventions, forced closure of remote communities in WA and relocation of the population to other centres, away from traditional lands.
When I was young my mother would often take my brothers and sister to a local Chinese restaurant for yum cha on Australia day. Our own tradition. And I never thought too much of it until I went to University in the early 2000’s and encountered student activism.
Year later when I moved to Tasmania it became clear to me that Australia day was not an inclusive day for all Australians to enjoy. Bricks were regularly thrown through the windows of the Tasmanian Aboriginal corporation, and as the anti-muslim sentiment grew in Australia it became a vehicle for anti migrant, anti asylum seeker chest beating white Australian jingoism to thrive.
I then came to referring to January 26th as Invasion Day.
Years later ago I was in Melbourne on a 26th January. In an effort to get away from the flag cape wearing drunken bogans with their “f**# off we’re full” anti migrant and white washed indigenous relations history, I bumped into a celebration of the survival of Aboriginal culture, which had renamed the day “Survival Day”. The message was that for all the efforts to suppress and destroy aboriginal culture, they were still here!
Now please don’t get me wrong. I love Australia and despite the dangerous clowns in charge love the people too. This isn’t about hate or division. I would love to celebrate the many things Australians can be proud of. This chap has done so:
Unfortunately, a national holiday on the 26th January can never be inclusive. Many have suggested other days for a national celebration. And I think Australia day’s moving to another date is inevitable. Until that time it will remain a painful reminder to those who have suffered at the hands of the colonisers, and a day of shame for Australians like myself who wish to see reconciliation move further.