For a day that’s celebrated in thongs, sunnies, and green and yellow face-paint, Australia Day is one of the most controversial holidays we have here in Oz.
The 26th of January, better known as Australia Day, serves to commemorate this day back in 1788, when the First Fleet of British ships arrived in Australia, marking the beginning of British settlement in this country.
Seems like a pretty good reason to celebrate, right?
Or it would be, if there hadn’t already been people in Australia when the First Fleet arrived. About 750,000 people, which is the reason many people refer to January 26th not as Australia Day, but as Invasion Day.
On his trip around the Australian coast in 1770, James Cook concluded that the island was uninhabited. When he was found to be wrong, the settlers did not turn back, nor even ask the native people for permission to colonise; they continued on establishing their penal colony with disregard to the people they viewed as a lesser race. Unsustainable fishing and hunting led to food shortages; land was cleared and water polluted. The Aboriginal people were close to starvation and the situation was only worsened with the introduction of European diseases that Indigenous Australians had not been exposed to before.
To me, the near destruction of an entire race of people for the petty desires of some self-righteous, egotistical men, doesn’t seem like cause for a sausage sizzle.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t think we should have an Australia Day; I just think we should do it differently.
Of course we have a right to celebrate our country. Of course we deserve a day off work to listen to some live music and eat some charred meats and BBQ chips. But why are we commemorating such a shameful event? Why are we giving credit to the people who almost destroyed the original inhabitants of our beautiful country?
Let’s celebrate Australia Day differently. A different time, a different memory. Let’s celebrate the day when Kevin Rudd apologised for the Stolen Generation. Let’s celebrate the day when government finally allows same-sex marriage.
Let’s celebrate something that is an achievement for all Australians. Let’s celebrate being Australian, regardless of race, sex, religion, gender, sexuality or politics.
Let’s spend Australia Day embracing our diversity, not commemorating it’s attempted erasure.
Thankyou to Aboriginal Heritage for helping me understand the history of Australia Day.