After unfriending yet more people on my most often used social media platform, I understand why so many Aboriginal people in this country choose to stay offline today, instead attending protests with their allies regarding the naming (and celebrating) of our national day of patriotism, Australia Day, as January 26.
For those who aren’t familiar with our history, January 26, 1788, commemorates the landing of The First Fleet – a flotilla of eleven ships bringing roughly 1500 convicts and first settlers to Sydney Cove (then Botany Bay) – to form a British colony in Australia. It has only been a declared public holiday since our bicentenary in 1988.
Our First Nation’s People regard it as a national day of morning. What ensued for their people was a prolonged period of disenfranchisement, smallpox epidemics, mass murder, enslavement, indoctrination with Christianity, and a gradual erosion of their cultural and familial structures. Then, we erased them from history. They never ceded sovereignty and we never gave them treaty over their tribal lands. In 1938, January 26 was the date of Australia’s first civil rights march, known then as The Day of Mourning.
No wonder they’re pissed at white people. It’s uncomfortable for us to acknowledge and process the truth of what our nation was built upon. Captain Cook declared the Eastern half of this continent ‘Terra Nullius’ or ‘no man’s land’ even though he documented smoke and fire all along the eastern coast of Australia and met with Indigenous people and attempted to hunt and barter with them.
Changing the date we celebrate Australia Day doesn’t erase history. I don’t see the big deal. I don’t understand the rabidly protective response of white Australia to the suggestion we could celebrate on a different date.
One of my Facebook friends stated it like this: If your grandmother communicates to you that something you’re doing is offensive to her, even if you don’t understand it, you attempt to make amends. You don’t have to understand why. You just change it, for her, because she’s your grandmother and it’s a kindness to her.
Our nation’s grandparents are telling us our behaviour is offensive, and how do we respond? We turn up the volume, the offense, the insensitivity, by arguing back at them why they shouldn’t be offended.
What would your grandmother say about that?
So goodbye racist friends. You won’t be missed. We can do better, with or without you. But preferably with you. Let’s show up and get honest and be sensitive for the future of Australia – ALL Australia.