Australia day – invasion day – creative spirits e sampark electricity bill payment


A National Australia Day Council, founded in 1979, views Australia Day as “a day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation,” and a “day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the generations to come”. Where can I celebrate Australia Day with Aboriginal people?

• Captain Arthur Phillip didn’t land in Australia on 26 January. He first landed in Australia between the 18th and 20th of January 1788 in Botany Bay. But because he couldn’t find fresh water there, he sailed into Sydney Cove on the 26th where he found Tank Stream—problem solved.

• 26 January 1824: The first mixed-race marriage. The first sanctioned marriage between an Aboriginal person and a convict occurred, by chance, on the 26th January 1824. Maria was the sister of Colebee who was captured, along with Bennelong, in 1789. She married Robert Lock, an illiterate, convict carpenter from England. This was the first legal Aboriginal-British marriage in the colony. She was survived by nine children.

• 1888: The Premier who knew. When Henry Parkes, the then-Premier of NSW, was planning the upcoming 1888 Centenary celebrations, he was asked what – if anything – was being planned for Aboriginal people, to which Parkes retorted, “And remind them that we have robbed them?” His harsh, but truthful response came almost 100 years before Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech, another rare, honest statement by a politician.

• A forced reenactment. For the 150th Anniversary, Aboriginal people were forced to participate in a reenactment of the landing of the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip. Aboriginal people living in Sydney had refused to take part so organisers brought in men from Menindee, in western NSW, and kept them locked up at the Redfern Police Barracks stables until the re-enactment took place. On the day itself, they were made to run up the beach away from the British – an inaccurate version of events.

• 26 January 1972: The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established. Four Aboriginal men (Michael Anderson, Billie Craigie, Bert Williams and Tony Coorey) set up a beach umbrella on the lawns opposite Parliament House in Canberra in protest against the alienation of Aboriginal people by the government.

• Harbour Bridge march. On 26 January 1988, up to 40,000 Aboriginal people (from as far away as Arnhem Land in the NT) and their supporters marched from Redfern Park to a public rally at Hyde Park and then on to Sydney Harbour to mark the 200th anniversary of invasion. It was the largest protest since the 1970s.

• All of Australia celebrated Australia Day from 1994. Australia Day was not consistently celebrated on the 26th of January as a public holiday in all states and territories until 1994, even though the name ‘Australia Day’ dating back to the early 1900s.

“Australia Day is 26 January, a date whose only significance is to mark the coming to Australia of the white people in 1788. It’s not a date that is particularly pleasing for Aborigines,” says Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell [8]. “The British were armed to the teeth and from the moment they stepped foot on our country, the slaughter and dispossession of Aborigines began.”

Aboriginal people call it ‘ Invasion Day’, ‘ Day of Mourning’, ‘ Survival Day’ or, since 2006, ‘ Aboriginal Sovereignty Day’. The latter name reflects that all Aboriginal nations are sovereign and should be united in the continuous fight for their rights.

“Australia is the only country that relies on the arrival of Europeans on its shores as being so significant it should herald the official national day,” he says [8]. “The USA does not choose the arrival of Christopher Columbus as the date for its national day. Like many other countries its national day marks independence.”

Others believe moving Australia Day would “elevate” one culture above another and “exacerbate… tensions in the community”. Thousands who celebrate the day would deliver a “defiant response”. Taking issue with a single day means to “reject colonial history in its entirety”. [16]

“There may come a time… when a treaty has been made between Aborigines and Australia to include a land settlement, designated seats in the parliament and our own assembly… The date of the agreement could mark a new national date for celebration, where both peoples acknowledge each other’s rights and aspirations, thus avoiding the current ‘whites only’ celebrations.” [8] Change is coming

In 2010, Mick Dodson, Aboriginal Law Professor and Australian of the Year 2009, expressed his hopes for a new day. “90% of people are saying Australia Day should be inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. I firmly believe that some day we will choose a date that is a comprehensive and inclusive date for all Australians.” [1]

In November 2013 Flinders Island council (Tasmania) decided to end its January 26 celebrations and instead support the Furneaux Islands Festival, held over 3 days in January and organised by the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association Incorporated (FIAAI). [26]

On 24 August 2016 full Fremantle council (WA) voted 11-1 in favour of not hosting the city’s usual fireworks event the next year “as a sign of respect to the local Noongar peoples and in recognition of changing attitudes towards January 26 as the national day of celebration.” [14] Instead the council wanted to consult with the city’s Aboriginal elders and business community about “the most appropriate way to mark the occasion”. Unfortunately the council had to submit to pressure from the federal government to reinstate its citizenship ceremony on Australia Day. [18]

City of Yarra councillors in Melbourne on 15 August 2017 voted unanimously to no longer refer to 26 January as Australia Day in all official documents, but “January 26” instead, to stop citizenship ceremonies on that date, and to support the campaign to change Australia Day in cognition of it being a day of distress for many Aboriginal people. In response, the federal government stripped the council of the power to hold citizenship ceremonies. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared the vote to be “utterly out of step with Australian values” and accused the council of seeking to divide Australia. “To change the date of Australia Day would be to turn our back on Australian values,” he said. [21]

Neighbouring Darebin council followed on 21 August 2017 with a vote of 6 to 2 in favour [22] and Moreland City Council (a neighbour of Darebin) on 13 September 2017, although it will still hold citizenship ceremonies. In 2015, Moreland moved its annual citizen awards ceremony from January 26 to October out of respect for Aboriginal people. [24]

I would however make a strong plea for a change of date. Let us find a day on which we can all feel included, in which we can all participate equally, and can celebrate with pride our common Australian identity. —Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, Aboriginal Australian of the Year 1984 [10]