The 26th of January 1788 was not a day to be celebrated by the convicts who arrived against their will on the First Fleet and it was a day that marked the beginning of traumatic times for the First People of the land.
In contemporary Australia, January 26th is a day that has developed its own traditions, created memories down the years for many, many people and is a significant holiday in our calendar.
Aboriginal people and groups advocating reconciliation who lobby against it are missing a wonderful opportunity.
Why not lobby for Australia Day to become a day that includes celebrating ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage as a proud part of a shared identity’? Thus Australia Day could become a powerful force in race relations helping ‘all Australians understand and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cultures, rights and experiences, which results in stronger relationships based on trust and respect and that are free of racism.’
On the other hand, forcing the date of Australia Day to be changed is a step backward for those who claim to desire reconciliation. It creates division and widens the gap between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians. Resentment from those who love the day as it is toward those who force the date to be changed can grow into stronger feelings. I feel resentment myself toward claims that January 26th is Invasion Day. Resentment is as strong as my feelings get but then I have loving connections to Aboriginal people through family which possibly tempers my reaction.
January 26th is sometimes called Survival Day by Australian Aboriginal people. It could also be seen as Survival Day for the convicts who wanted nothing more than to return home. Survival is worth celebrating, isn’t it?
It seems to be a no brainer – choose the option that has the potential to deepen our understanding of Aboriginal cultures and history or the option that creates division and resentment in Australia.
(Quotes taken from the website of Reconciliation Australia.)