By Cally Jetta
There are a few dates in the calendar that I admittedly dread. Invasion Day is number one. ANZAC and Remembrance Days also. Don’t get me wrong – I honour the fallen and pay my respects and in no way are my aversions about them. It’s more the fact that I really feel the division between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. They are strong reminders of the ongoing exclusion and injustice experienced by our people and they produce angry and aggressive comments often thinly veiled as patriotism.
My grandfather was born in Poland and in 1939 at 13 years old was deported by cattle truck at 1am by Soviet forces. His father, a policeman, had already been executed by Nazi forces. As soon as he was of age he joined the Army cadets and eventually became a pilot sergeant. He lived so long at war that he became fluent in several languages and travelled the world. Soviet occupation of Poland meant that citizens such as my Pop who had fought in opposing forces were labelled traitors and faced death or jail if they returned home. The kindness of a few Australian troops in the Middle East was what made by Pop choose Australia above the UK and US. He arrived in Fremantle by ex-troop ship Austurius before working his way round to NSW and eventually Nungar country in SA.
He was proud to become an Australian citizen despite being called a wog among other things and like the FNP and other ‘ethnic looking and sounding’ migrants in the town – he was treated with contempt and disdain. He worked hard to set up an RSL for migrant servicemen as they had not been welcomed into the mainstream one.
Despite all this, he still could see and acknowledge that he was not treated as poorly as the Aboriginal people and servicemen and women around him. He had received medals and he marched in the ANZAC parade each year. Something the other side of my family was not able to do.
If there was one thing he made sure I knew, it was that there is no glory in war. He was aware of the propaganda and rich, powerful men behind the scenes. He had lived the desperation, hate, cruelty and grief. For him it was not a matter of choice, he could join the war effort or remain slowly starving and freezing to death in the concentration camp in Syberia. It was about survival. He never was able to return to his birth place and see his mother again. Yet he harboured no hate or intolerance.
When Australians insist that their countrymen sacrificed everything for glory or for their loyalty to a flag and distant monarchy I feel that a sense of romanticism is clouding their judgement. They fail to acknowledge that from another perspective … certain acts were not deemed as heroic but as invasion.
Egotistical fools sending countless fathers and sons to their death out of arrogance and public perception is not glorious. And the vast majority of Australian soldier anecdotes point to the reasons of adventure, income, friends, expectations and travel for enlisting rather than the flag or the Queen.
From my perspective, the Aboriginal frontier wars are the most honourable conflict in Australian history. It wasn’t about power and greed, imperialism or fascism. It wasn’t about allies and enemies and political strategising. Our fierce leaders and soldiers did not recklessly sacrifice countless men as they watched on from a safe distance. They fought for their land, their freedoms and their precious earth mother.
Yet because they wore no uniform nor enlisted formally, no proper recognition is given.
Sometimes people get so angry and aggressive when Aboriginal people bring such matters up on ANZAC or Remembrance Day. ‘How disrespectful! This is not the day to bring this up’ they blast. They give the impression that they’re seriously open to discussing it the other 363 days a year- yeah right!
It makes sense to raise the topics then. It’s in people’s thoughts and our people are reminded of the injustices and lack of recognition again. I guess we feel that people so outwardly proud of their war heritage would have respect for another group of people’s feelings about their own soldiers and sacrifices also. Apparently not for some.
Wanting recognition of our Frontier resistance fighters and human sacrifices does not detract from any other Australian’s history or recognition – it completes it. I am not being disrespectful of your history, ancestors or soldiers by asking you to acknowledge and respect ours.
Now to prepare myself for Invasion Day.