I’m a proud Aussie 364 days of the year (or 365 this leap year). I love Australia. I loved growing up here. I’m proud to call it home. I would say I’m patriotic.
I love Australia, but I won’t celebrate today.
The Australia I love is inclusive, diverse, compassionate. It’s the community spirit that thrives even during hard times. It’s the beautiful and varied Australian landscape. It’s the ‘screw it, she’ll be right’ attitude to the challenges life throws up. It’s the understanding that we are better together. That our similarities are more powerful than our differences, but that our diversity makes us stronger.
This Australia is not celebrated today and Indigenous Australia sure as hell doesn’t seem to be celebrated.
A quick history lesson
In case you snoozed through ‘Studies of Society’ and the token semester of ‘Australian Studies’ at school (which covers the first fleet, land rights & the stolen generation as though they happened a million years ago and now life is perfect for all Aboriginal Australians), here’s a quick recap.
In 1770, Captain Cook arrived in Botany Bay (NSW) and claimed Australia for England under the rule of ‘terra nullius’ (meaning nobody’s land).
Australia Day marks the arrival of the first fleet on 26 January 1788 at Sydney Cove. This also marks the beginning of the forced takeover and colonisation of this country and the massacre of Indigenous people.
We celebrate this painful history as if it is history. As though there are no lasting ramifications for the present. Don’t delude yourself, we have a long way to go. I mean, we had the White Australia policy until the 70s! Even if it happened years ago, why on earth would we celebrate such an awful atrocity?
This year’s Australia Day advert perfectly captures the ignorance of the Aussie public. Now, as a vegetarian, winter-loving gal who doesn’t want to celebrate Australia Day I get that I’m not the target audience.
But c’mon… Operation Boomerang? You’re ripping off something unique and important to Aboriginal culture. It’s an appropriation of culture at the best of times, but on Australia Day?! Seriously not cool.
According to this Guardian article the marketing manager “said he had been unaware of criticism from Indigenous people and when making the ad did not consider using the word boomerang would be controversial”. Groan.
I’m not going to lie, when anyone starts talking about Invasion Day I do feel a bit uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable about the use of the word invasion. Seeing posts about Survival Day on Facebook instantly has my guards up.
Why? It’s makes me confront issues in society I would prefer to ignore. It makes me think about uncomfortable truths. It makes me acknowledge that I’m in a privileged position and you know what sucks about that? When you’re in a privileged position you’re expected to do something about the current situation. I mean sure I benefit from the systemic mistreatment of Aboriginal people, but like can we worry about that another day? Can’t you see I’m trying to enjoy my cider right now?
This is what really irks me about Australian society. We’d just prefer that anyone with a grievance would shut up about the whole Invasion Day thing and let us have our BBQ in peace. Sure, we love the underdog but only on our terms. And Australia Day is just inconvenient.
How dare I compare my momentary discomfort with centuries of violence and dispossession?
How dare I dictate on which terms people can talk about their oppression?
How dare I use the ‘this makes me uncomfortable’ argument as justification for keeping the status quo?
How dare I brush aside the topic just because someone’s made me think about something I’d rather ignore?
Look, there’s part of me that would much prefer if I didn’t have to think about how lucky I am. But you know what? That just proves how lucky I am.
As Brad Chilcott put it so perfectly the other day, “Only the unaffected have the luxury of using “politics” to distance themselves from an issue“.
It is a privilege not to care.
So yes, you can put the gross feeling aside for a day to enjoy a barbie and the hottest 100. You can justify hanging out with friends, “it’s a public holiday, what else would I be doing?”.
Just know that doing so is a luxury.
Friends, I’m sorry if turning down your BBQ invites seemed rude. It wasn’t my intention to be a snob. I just can’t in clear conscience attend an Australia Day event on January 26th.
Nothing will change unless we do. And we need to change.
Want to know more?
> Australia Day: Indigenous people are told to ‘get over it’. It’s impossible
> Young white male decides Australia Day isn’t problematic
> 8 alternative dates to celebrate Australia Day
> How to show solidarity with Indigenous Australians this Invasion Day
> 10 ways to stand with Indigenous people this Survival Day
> Stories of Survival – NITV
> The World’s Most Popular Website Just Ripped The Rug Out From Under Australia Day
> The day I don’t feel Australian? That would be Australia Day
> Why The Presets aren’t celebrating Australia Day
@IndigenousX (Twitter account with different Indigenous host each week)
@LukeLPearson (founder of IndigenousX)
@TheKooriWoman (‘Big Black Gomeroi Woman. Feminist. Social Justice Warrior. Racism Fighter. Aboriginal Rights Supporter’)
@MickGooda (Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner)
@RecSouthAus (Reconciliation SA)
#StoriesOfSurvival (collection of stories on Twitter)
Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.