Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 each year and commemorates the first landing in Australia by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788. To our Indigenous people it is seen as the day that their home land was invaded and the theft of their land began.
I try look at it this way: if it was to happen to my family and myself, how would I feel being treated the way our Indigenous people have been treated for over 200 years since the British decided to take this country as their own? I know I would have no love for those that came and stole my house and land from me.
Unlike in other countries where the governments of the countries doing the invading signed treaties with the Indigenous people, our government has taken no such action in over 200 years.
For nearly 200 years the Indigenous people were seen as being unfit to be recognized as the equals of white citizens, and were regarded as fauna rather than human beings. It was only in 1965, that all indigenous Australians were given the same voting rights as the rest of Australia’s citizens.
In 1770 when James Cook discovered Australia, he declared it to be terra nullius (no one’s land), yet it was owned by over 400 nations (tribes) of Indigenous people. Because the Indigenous people moved to follow the food source and didn’t stay in the one place, they were seen as being uncivilized. Moving makes more sense than trying to stay in one place and starving!
When the British came to Australia, they brought diseases that wiped out thousands of Indigenous people. They were moved off their lands, and many who stayed to defend their land and protect their sacred sites were killed or imprisoned. Back then and for nearly 200 years murders and massacres committed by the white invaders were overlooked, ignored and even condoned. Sadly some non First-Nations Australians seem have that same mindset even in this modern age.
As with all Indigenous people around the world, Australian Aboriginal people had a kinship with the land, understanding fully how to conserve their food resources and protect their land. This was not understood by the British who thought you needed to control the land to make it productive, rather than to let the land provide you naturally with what you need. Indigenous people only hunted for what was needed for food and made use of the whole animal to provide clothing and other items as needed. White folks hunted for food, pleasure and financial gain, wiping out many species of native animals as their introduced species such as cattle and sheep displaced the Aboriginal peoples’ food animals.
Knowledge and learning were very important to our Indigenous people. Information about local resources and customs were exchanged, tools and materials to make tools were traded, and messages were sent between groups. This is a civilized form of society, no matter that the invaders regarded the Indigenous people as primitive.
Before you sit down and celebrate this 26th Jan, please give thought to the true meaning behind this date. Think about the price paid by the first people of this nation in order that that we can be living in this wonderful land known as Australia. From 26 January 1788 the theft began, as did the introduction of disease, the decimation of families, forced labour and other crimes against humanity.
It is time that our Indigenous people are fully recognized as the true original owners of this land we call home, that they be recognized as the true sovereign people. It is time as a nation we give back the dignity to a once free and happy people, to give back their rights as the true owners of this land. This doesn’t mean they want to take your homes from you as some seem to think. It is about giving back the right to have a say about what happens to their land; to say no to the destruction of their sacred land/s. It is about embracing all as brothers and sisters in this nation.
Notes: The above is only my thoughts and in no way reflect opinions of any other people. It is a look at how I see things through my eyes, how I feel with my heart on this subject. I wrote this in the hope it gives some thought to others about the significance of what is known mainly as Australia day and that others might give some thought to the full facts.
Many thanks to Roz with corrections to some points and minor edit changes.