Australia day is here and every year we grab our flags, light up our bbq’s and dance and sing and celebrate. Every year, I am left with a question: “How much do we really understand what Australia day is about and how much do we really think about what it is we actually believe in?
Australia Day is a celebration of the first European invasion of Australia on the 26th of January 1788. The Europeans sailed in through an untouched harbour and hoisted their flag, declaring the land to be theirs. And then they saluted. They weren’t alone either. They brought their lovely animal friends; the rat, the cat, the rabbit and the pig who all just thrived in their new home.
They considered the land to be a terra nullius or a ‘land belonging to no one’ under English law because Aboriginal people had not used or showed ownership of the land in the same way as the Europeans did.
Do we, Australians really know what happened and what is happening to Indigenous Australians? Does ‘sorry’ mean anything if we are not moving forward towards further reconciliation.
Do we have the courage to challenge what we thought was true or do we let the media form our opinion?
I don’t celebrate Australia day, the amount of Australian flags grown men wear as capes (reminiscent of the Cronulla riots), makes me feel semi-nauseous as do children parading around in flag adorned bucket hats made in Chinese sweatshops.
The Australia Day motto this year is ‘Celebrate what’s great!’. Should we really celebrate the day that the first Australians had their land and all rights stolen from them. It is an important question to ask yourself.
Australia is the only Commonwealth country that has not signed a treaty with it’s Indigenous people. The Northern Territory Intervention which was implemented by the Howard government and is still in place, took away all existing Aboriginal land rights, suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and placed over 70 communities under compulsory government control. Four years on the intervention has done little but create more chaos and increase poverty and racism.
How far have we really come?
They call Australia a ‘lucky country’. But whilst most of us live in air-conditioned comfort ,there are Indigenous Australians and many other refugees and immigrants that continue to have their human rights violated and be treated without compassion or dignity.
It’s real and it’s happening.
Only with this understanding can Australia move forward with genuine respect and partnership with it’s First Peoples. A future where solutions lie in our communities and by working together. Not from a disconnected parliament thousands of kilometres away.
The choices we make in everyday life, in business, in how we raise our families and in what we choose to buy all depend on the values and belief systems that exist in our minds.
Maybe this Australia day, lets open our eyes a little wider and look past the burnt sausages and lukewarm beer and consider what is right for the oldest living culture on earth. We each determine how we value Australia. In contemplating the value we place on our expression of Australian life and community, that mutual spirit for doing what is right and banding together. Without recognizing our history and our first peoples, who are we really and what is Australia?
You decide. What is Australia day to you?