LOCAL INDIGENOUS ADVOCATE SCOTT RATHMAN ON WHY AUSTRALIA DAY SHOULD BE CHANGED
HERE we are again, right after January 26, and yet again much is being said about ‘Australia Day’.
I believe that there are two very clear issues with this day.
Now, it is impossible to cover both these in full; however, hopefully, you get the point – if not, maybe you and/or your organisation would like me to come and speak about it to a group and express my perspective.
The first issue I see is the date, January 26, can’t be used to celebrate Australia when Australia became what it is on January 1, 1901.
January 26 represents the establishment of a penal colony proclaimed as New South Wales with the raising of the British flag.
What took place after this landing is now part of history – not a well-known history, not a well-taught history, a history many would conveniently choose to ignore.
What followed for Aboriginal people involved murder, rape, the stealing of land and children and much, much more.
Hardly reason for Aboriginal people to celebrate and, likewise, not really reason for anyone to celebrate Australia, which didn’t even exist at that point in time.
Those who are pro-Australia Day preach that the day is an opportunity to celebrate all that is great about Australia; to reflect on what it means to be Australian, what we love about Australia, the sense of fair go, lifestyle, democracy and the freedoms we enjoy.
Anyone see a problem with all of that?
I guess it all comes down to who you are and what race you are, as that may alter your perception of the day.
It is not easy for white Australians to see that these type of celebrations can be different, depending on your experiences and, likewise, the individual experiences of Aboriginal people can be different, too – as, remember, we are not all the same.
What I see, what I experience, is different to you.
I see my people die younger, I see my people in prison, I see my people’s children being taken away, I see my people face racism, I see my people living in Third World conditions, I see my people treated and used as a tourist attraction, I see my people’s issues ignored by Australia… and then you want me to celebrate the above…
Changing the date is just one part of it.
Yes, it doesn’t solve all of the issues and challenges that the Aboriginal people have faced and continue to face since the landing on January 26, 1788.
In order for me to celebrate Australia, lots of work needs to take place and real conversations need to occur at all levels of society, to educate and empower people to drive the changes that need to take place.
People tell me that, if it wasn’t for all that has happened, I wouldn’t be here.
I would much rather my people and my grandmother to not have experienced all they did, for me to sit here and benefit from all the pain and sorrow that they went through and continue to go through.