There’s been a lot of debate lately surrounding Australia Day (AKA Invasion/Survival Day) and whether the date should be changed.
And I think it should. As a matter of fact, I KNOW it should
I know that while the date still stands as is, and while we are still celebrating on a day of mourning, then the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can never be closed, the damage done will not repair and the wounds will not heal.
You might ask, why do you care so much? And so I ask, why don’t you?
The only explanation that I can think of, is lack of education surrounding Australian history and plain ignorance.
So let me share a story …
Earlier this year, while sitting around the dinner table, sharing what we learnt that day, our daughter – seven years old – piped up and exclaimed with such joy in her new-found knowledge, that she knew who discovered Australia. Before we could ask, the words “Captain James Cook” had already spilled from her mouth. I looked at my husband, and as he looked at her and I could see the moment his heart sank.
Well, I am a mother to four amazing children and the wife to a great man. I am the daughter to not only the parents who brought me into the world and raised me, but also to my father-in-law.
These beautiful people in my life are Torres Strait Islander. My husband, born and raised within the Wiradjuri community, who too are an extension of his family and culture.
So that was the night our daughters ‘un-learnt’ what they were told in school, and instead were taught an age-appropriate version of the truth.
I know this sounds insane for most, because it’s common knowledge after all. It is what we have all been taught in school, growing up as kids. Australia was discovered by Captain Cook, claiming Terra Nullius – No Man’s land.
Except it wasn’t
I know, I know. I can hear the moaning already. Not this again. BUT YES, yes this again. This again and again, until things change. Until the way we teach Australian history for what it really was, until we change our attitudes as a nation and until we recognise and pay respect for the loss and devastation caused to our nation’s FIRST people.
I’m not saying that Australia wasn’t ‘discovered’ by Captain Cook, that happened according to him. But he wasn’t the first person here and it certainly wasn’t No Man’s Land. The fact is, Australia had been inhabited by Indigenous Australians for 60,000 years prior to Captain Cook. In fact, Indigenous culture here in Australia is the oldest living in the world. So you can understand where the term ‘invasion’ has come from, because it was.
What happened following the invasion of Australia is brutal. So much so it seems we are ashamed of it (so we should be) and that it is being swept under the rug.
White settlement saw the genocide, YES GENOCIDE! (I only learnt this myself, in recent years) of Indigenous Australians, with whole tribes completely wiped out. Tens of thousands of women and children raped, babies stolen from their mothers’ arms and men defending their people murdered callously in cold blood, innocent people sold and forced into slave labour. Traditions lost through generations, hundreds of native dialects/languages gone because they were not allowed to be spoken or taught.
It’s not so long ago …
“Sure,” you can say, “but that was hundreds of years ago” – except it wasn’t. It was still happening in the seventies. It wasn’t until the sixties that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people had any rights at all in this country under White law. Before that they were seen as part of Australian flora and fauna.
People who lived through this are still living today. The intergenerational trauma continues to be passed down.
And we as a nation are still questioning why?
It’s ironic, everyone who seems to complain about immigration, refugees and other cultures ‘invading’ our country, are forgetting that’s how the country as we know it was founded.
Perhaps if you feel so strongly about this then you could spare some compassion and empathy for Indigenous Australians?
I challenge you to actually take the time to educate yourself and sit with someone from the Indigenous community and ask them how they feel about it and why.
I’ve heard people say it’s time to get over it, it’s in the past and they have to move on. I’ve also heard people ask “why should we apologise for something we didn’t do?”
Except we are still doing it. We are doing it every time we don’t acknowledge the truth, we are doing it every time kids are sitting in a classroom being told that Australia was FIRST discovered by Captain Cook and we are doing it when we are celebrate Australia Day on the anniversary of the First Fleet arriving (the national day of mourning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people).
So let’s move Australia day to a date that is respectful and inclusive of ALL Australians.
Here are some great alternatives
January 1st – The date of Australia’s Federation
February 13th – The day Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation.
May 27th – The day indigenous Australians were recognised as Australian citizens.
June 3rd – The day the Australian high court overturned the notion of Terra Nullius in the Mabo case
(and my favourite) May 8th – Because, what’s more Australian than May Eight. May8. MAAATE!
I watched a video made by Jordan Raskopoulos that summed up why the date should be changed in a really simple way that everyone *should* understand.
It basically said: think of Australia as one big share house, and your housemates come home and say ‘hey we are going to have a party on Friday’, and you say ‘oh can we not do it on Friday night, that’s the day my dad died’. A good housemate would say ‘yeah, sure, we will have it next week, because we want to make sure everyone has a good time’. It’s kind of like that, except your housemates have moved in without permission, they don’t pay rent and their dad murdered your dad and now they’re living in your dad’s old room.
Doesn’t seem so nice or fair now, does it?
This article was originally written for and published by Kidspot.
Click here to check it out.