By Jasmein Minhas |
On January 26, 1788, the First Fleet of 11 convict ships arrived from Great Britain and raised the Union Jack Flag at Sydney Cove. The 26th of January celebrates the diverse society and beauty of the Commonwealth of Australia. People have barbeques, reflect on their family history and celebrate with their community the day that gave them a home. It’s called Australia Day, a day of commemoration. It’s a day where each child in Australia is smiling bright and each parent hosts a party to showcase their pride for their country. It’s a day of love and togetherness. In spite of that, the 2.4% of Aboriginals living in Australia call it different names: Invasion Day. The Day of Mourning.
The video starts off with a voice saying, “Australia Day,” to a group of Aboriginal people. Within the first 30 seconds into the video, a somber mood sets in and each person’s opinion of the day was made very clear. One man shared that his definition of Australia Day would be, “when celebrations of survival of one of the oldest cultures, if not the oldest culture on Earth.”Another mentions it to be a joke while others were angered and called it an offense. They did not define Australia Day as the rest of Australia Day. To them, it was, “a day that marks the beginning of the massacres.”
It was the beginning of the end for the Aboriginal people, celebrating and glorifying a day that ruined the lives of a very peaceful community. Countless acts of rape, murder and terror among the Aboriginal community occurred after January 26, 1788, and for the indigenous people of Australia, having barbeques on the day that ended all days for them, is to say the least, sadistic.
Each of the men, women, and children in the video mentioned that they love their country. They truly love Australia and all it had given them, but couldn’t ignore the “dark and disconnected culture” that is present. Many also mentioned how it wasn’t Australia Day that was the problem, but the date it was placed on, the 26th. On the 26th of January in 1788, the British began their settlement and colonization, and to the Aboriginal community, the 26th marks the day that their people began to be slaughtered. It was the beginning of colonization, imperialism, and the murder of innocents on their own country’s land. The argument that Australia Day should be moved to the 1st of January instead is also a heavily debated topic. Many spoke of how Australia Day should celebrate each Australian’s pride and history. Celebrating it on the 26th glorifies an unethical, immoral, and unjust period of history in Australia. For most Australians, it’s a day of pride for their country, but for the Aboriginal community, it is a day of solace. One man explained that, “the 1st of January, 1901, the states federated to become a country. It was loosely called Australia before then, but it became official. This was now the nation called Australia. The Commonwealth of Australia. That should be Australia Day.”
Each of them wanted Australia Day to be remembered for its glory, not it’s dark, racist past. They want Australia Day to be a day where each Australian can rejoice and jump for joy for their country. Australia Day does not celebrate the entire nation of Australia. It celebrates the current nation of Australia, not the first nation of its indigenous people. To put it in perspective, their country was having parades in the streets, carrying flags of pride and gathering with their family and friends to commemorate a day where their ancestors were slaughtered for land. Towards the end, each person gave their final view on this day, each wanting a day that every Australian could celebrate, one Aboriginal man even saying, “I’ll help you celebrate it if you like.”
Australia Day is very similar to Columbus Day and how both days are celebrated. The Native American community feels the same anger for Columbus Day as the Aboriginal community in Australia. Furthermore, Waitangi Day, a national holiday is New Zealand which celebrates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 has a similar effect. The treaty allowed the British settlers to live in harmony with the native Maoris. However, the controversy rose in 1973 once the New Zealand Day Act was passed, officially making Waitangi Day, New Zealand Day. Maoris were outraged. Many felt that by changing the name, their ancestors history and the Treaty of Waitangi were being ignored. The Maori community felt a lack of recognition for the treaty and their people, similar to Native Americans and Aboriginals with their respective national holidays. All three days reflect on a part of history that chooses to be forgotten and locked in the dark. History is altered for the citizens of these countries after. The Aboriginals, Native Americans, and Maoris celebrate a day of pride with the indigenous men, women, and children mourn with their heads hanging low.
More than 200 years later, the 26th of January still hangs heavily over the hearts of each Aboriginal in Australia, just as Columbus Day and Waitangi Day do for Native Americans and Maoris. While everyone else in the country celebrates, they stand conflicted. It’s the day their nation is filled with pride and joy. But, it’s also Invasion Day, the day the indigenous people lost their homes, families, and rights. Columbus Day, Australia Day, and Waitangi Day remind each Aboriginal, Maori, and Native American of their survival and the buried truth. For them, it’s nearly impossible to carry such joy for the same country that degrades and discredits their peaceful community as nothing more than dirt.