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Australia Day: The Origin

Amelia Strazdins

In Australia the 26th of January is dedicated to celebrating our country. And whilst many people spend it on the beach or barbequing with friends, the origins of the day are often forgotten and the darkened history that follows alongside it. For the traditional owners of the land, the Indigenous peoples, the day marks the beginning of the destruction of their land, culture and language. Many refer to it as invasion day. The actions that occurred on this day have prompted the campaign ‘change the date’. Under this campaign, people have been advocating for the celebration of our country to be moved from the 26th of January. As a unified nation heading into the year of 2021 it is more important than ever to recognise our country’s past, the mistakes that have occurred within it, and what we can actively do to promote a more unified and inclusive future. We are often referred to as being the ‘lucky country’, and this has proven more than true throughout the coronavirus pandemic. But for those still feeling the effects of being oppressed and their culture and families destroyed, Australia Day being held on the 26th doesn’t create feelings of luck nor appreciation but reminds Indigenous peoples of severely outdated mindsets and inexcusable actions against their culture and their peoples. It is important to note that pushing to move this celebration to another date does not mean we cannot celebrate our wonderful country: our sporting teams, beautiful beaches and mateship. It simply means that this celebration should occur on another date which does not hold such a terrible past for the traditional owners of our land. For many Australia Day is not spent thinking about how our country was founded or barbarically settled, but for Indigenous peoples Invasion Day remains as a permanent reminder. As a nation it is naive and ignorant to ignore the history surrounding the British settlement of Australia. This year we have the hope that we will heal and grow, but this healing also refers to acknowledging Australia’s true foundations and endeavouring to support the Indigenous culture and history through positive actions. 2020 was the year of change- the Black Lives Matter movement being one of the most significant aspects. This movement pushed the world to recognise the racial inequality that still occurs and highlighted the oppression of Indigenous and Native culture globally. In changing the date of Australia Day, we pay respect to the traditional owners of the land and recognise the challenges and hardships endured by Indigenous people, not just on the 26th of January but throughout history. It is too easy for this problem to be ignored or swept under the rug but pushing for social change is incredibly important. This change can occur, but action must be taken by raising awareness and discussing the issue. Open letters to the government and petitions also play significant roles in promoting the issue. So, this year on the 26th of January please take the time to consider that the date does not hold positive implications for Australia, or the traditional owners of the land, only negative. Momentous and positive change is already occurring, with endeavours of reconciliation. A line in our national anthem recently was changed from ‘we are young and free’ to ‘we are one and free’. In making these changes, including changing the date, we open up a brighter, more unified future.

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