Australia Day: A Founder's Day or a Day of Invasion
Six British colonies united in 1901 to become a nation, recognized as the Commonwealth of Australia. The Victorian Government authorized a proposal in 1931 making a public holiday of the Monday closest to January 26 to form a long weekend, referencing that Monday as Australia Day. Open this for details on the history of this day. The declaration didn't come until 1994 as a national public holiday. Why January 26?
Australia Day Or Invasion Day
In 1788 on January 26, Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the first British ships on Australian soil. The British flag rose over North South Wales (NSW), claiming this a British colony. For some, the day represents a founding, for others dispossession, but the colonisation was a long, brutal involvement for land for everyone involved.
For the First Nations people, those original to the land, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, the day references "Invasion Day." From the moment the British ships arrived going forward, these communities suffered atrocities with stolen children, massacres, theft of their land, overwhelming oppression, all from those instigating the colonisation. The Indigenous people mourn on January 26 for the history following the arrival of the captain and his ships.
Non-Indigenous citizens want to celebrate the founding of their country on January 26. The modern-day Australians played no role in the acts that took place hundreds of years ago. Many people merely want to recognize their home and commemorate the holiday as a community. The goal is to make good things happen into the future for all Australians, with the holiday serving as a stepping stone.
Sadly, despite lack of involvement, communities that experience trauma in their history understand that these events come with long-term effects and consequences. The current generations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people that endured the colonisation from that period were not a part of that history.
However, the trauma finds them; repercussions affect them, continuing problems reach them. And depending on how future authoritative bodies handle wrongdoings and acknowledge and address the issues, these will pass well into the future.
Abolish The Holiday
The stance of the Indigenous people is that the holiday is withdrawn altogether as a celebratory event or, in other terms, "abolish or cancel the national holiday." These communities and a few non-Indigenous groups believe the reasons given for celebrating are false. There is no cause for celebration until there are key changes to justice for the First Nations people. Groups you'll find at https://australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/australia-day bring the history to the forefront, so people recognize what they're celebrating. Perhaps then there will be changes.
Some areas to address include acknowledging the natural history in a widespread capacity, bringing social justice, constitutional recognition, self-governance powers, legal restitution, treaty. Along with other communities throughout Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people don't experience the ideals celebrated on Australia Day like freedoms, equality, opportunities, or national identities.
Those opposed to the holiday are of the mindset that the celebration of pride for the nation has "roots in racism," based strictly on "colonial history, behaviours, and values."
Change The Date
Many Australians recognize the struggles of the First Nations people and what the date represents for them and see the purpose for the people of Australia to hold value and want a day to commemorate the country in which they live. The solution, in their opinion, is to "Change The Date" as a form of compromise. In this way, representatives formally acknowledge the history, and the atrocities experienced that specific day represents to these communities.
The "Change the Date" proposal aims to include all people living in the country, inclusive of First Nations people, with many dates suggested. While people view this as a step in the right direction, others see it as a simple date change with the system at large and the overall narrative remaining the same, equating disadvantaged and oppressed Indigenous people.
Each year more people come out in protest of January 26. It started in 1888. In 1938 nearly 1000 people joined the "Day of Mourning and Protest" movement and grew to over 100,000 in 2020. As more people begin to learn authentic Australian history, they join with the Indigenous people. Many find that as a day of celebration for Australians, everyone should have a part, feel included, and want to join in. But, until that time, the country will never indeed be a united nation.
Australians today want to celebrate the "founding" of their country, now their home, on the day set aside to do so. Yet, these same people wonder (in so many words) why they are being held accountable for roles they played no part in with history so long ago.
There are a few ways the people whose ancestors suffered the atrocities from the colonisation can look at that, but the primary focus is simple. When you see a country celebrating joyfully a founding that implies a country's peaceful settlement, you hope they understand how things really transpired. Understanding the true history of your country is a vital part of living there.
Even if you were not there when the massacres took place or at the time families lost their children or experienced dispossession of their land, ultimately, you'll learn this is how Australia came to be. Hopefully, it will entice you to work towards a better future for your country, inclusive of all Australians.
Indeed, it makes sense to most people that all these generations later, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (who weren't there in 1788) are still suffering the consequences of lost generations, lost land, oppression, and on and on.
These young First Nation people don't understand why they still have to play the roles that the colonists forced upon their ancestors, despite the fact these were people with rights. Why are they still fighting for fundamental rights in a country that claims diversity? It makes a good argument for why these communities feel no cause to glorify what happened and is still happening.
It wasn't a day that a British Captain and his fleet found the country and peaceably settled the land. Instead, it was an invasion with subsequent brutality.
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