It’s Australia Day. All around the world, Australians are celebrating being Australian. For some, it doesn’t get much further than contemplating a barbecue, eating a lamington or two, or maybe having Vegemite on toast for brekkie.
For many indigenous Australians, this particular date is problematic. Some other Australians don’t get this, however.
You see, this date commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove, and the date upon which the British declared Australia to be a colony. They chose not to recognise the indigenous Australians already living there, or to broker a treaty with them. They just moved in.
Australia is a great place, but non-indigenous Australians do have to acknowledge that the landing in Sydney Cove was not the first people in Australia. There were people here already – with their own traditions, legends and languages. The white explorers were just that – white explorers, exploring places indigenous Australians had been living in for thousands of years.
If we’re honest with ourselves, and put ourselves in the place of indigenous Australians whose ancestors were already living here, we can understand why some of them refer to this date as ‘Invasion Day.’
If I imagine living in my homeland after another county has walked in and taken over, and then having to ‘celebrate’ that day, I can get an inkling of what our indigenous Australians feel today. History tells of some dreadful things done to the indigenous peoples. It tells of some dreadful things done to the convicts sent here. It also tells us of camaraderie, friendship, and a country where wrongs can be made right, and new beginnings forged.
Changing the date of Australia Day to one that isn’t associated with the British colonisation of Australia, would be a big step forward and part of a new beginning.
There’s a hashtag associated with this today. It’s #changethedate and is worth browsing on Twitter. If you’re an Australian reading this, you might be offended, or encouraged. But however you feel, please think about it.