So January 26, Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day, Day of Mourning and Republic Day in India is no longer Triple J’s Hottest One Hundred Day which is a relief, but should we be celebrating it at all? Some want to change the date, so that we can have a holiday honouring our country which is inclusive for everyone and not just the descendants of colonists and migrants.
Some want to keep the late January public holiday because that’s when it’s always been (since 1994).
Others want to continue to mark the date when our nation was arbitrarily claimed by foreigners and the massacres started. Until we come together and negotiate a treaty, they say, there is no other day that symbolises the reality of our country more accurately.
It is the date when a few shiploads of impoverished criminals were unwillingly dumped on strange shores inhabited by bewildered Indigenous people and the military began to enforce bureaucratic orders to attempt to transform the hostile land into an imitation of the United Kingdom, or more specifically I guess, south Wales. They cleared land, they spread disease, they jailed and murdered the locals and generally created a living hell for those that had successfully survived here for more than 120,000 years.
Until we can celebrate the day when we mature as a nation and forge an agreement about how we want Australia to grow and exist into the future, why not use January 26 as a day for protest and for demanding that treaty? Changing the date might make some of us feel better about drinking beer and eating chops on one particular afternoon, but would it really change the reality which so many people face every day of the year?
Would it change the trauma that comes from generations of scraping back the dignity and independence that was stripped from the people in 1788? Would it change the pain of being marginalised and ignored by the invaders for so many years? Would it help all the families that have been torn apart?
Signing a treaty between our government and Indigenous leaders could actually make a significant difference in people’s lives. It would prove that Aboriginal people are respected, heard and finally treated as equals. It would acknowledge what has been taken from them and how much they have lost over the past 230 years. It could be a new beginning for all of us, and demonstrate an optimism for a better future together.