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January 26, 1788: The day the white men came and plundered

Whatever your opinion of the day, it is impossible not to stop and consider it. By considering I mean how does one give it the meaning it so richly deserves.

Of course, our First Nations People would like it moved to another day because they see the day as an invasion of the country they have occupied continuously for thousands of years.

Although now almost 80 years of age, I have to confess I have only ever shaken one Aboriginal’s hand in my lifetime. It was that of Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls (of the Yorta Yorta nation) who played VFL football with Fitzroy many years ago. I might have been 16 years of age at the time.

Other dark-skinned faces have just walked by with a look of resignation as I have acknowledged them in the street. Am I ashamed of not making a more significant effort? Yes, I am.

However, I’m not removed from having a view simply because of a lack of connection. No, indeed l am not.

More importantly, social justice or injustice raises my blood pressure above normal. I find racism amongst the worst of all evils. This year as we approach day 26, we are reminded by both sides of the argument just what the day means to all Australians, but at the same time, we are also asked by our First Nations People to consider whether it is the right day.

For me, it is a bad day, and I should think that commemorating the day you have your country taken from you is hardly the day the nation which is now a multitude of ethnic origins is hardly a day to celebrate it. I hope most reasoned people would agree, but that is not the case. It gets a bit unsavoury for me when my fellow citizens treat the day so flippantly and dismiss out of hand our First Nations People’s involvement in it.

On the one hand, many of my fellow Australians see it as a chance to celebrate the country’s lifestyle, culture and achievements, typically through barbeques and public events, yet always through the prism of the white fella’s eyes. However, the date is not a happy one for Australia’s Indigenous people.

January 26 is also a significant date on the cricketing calendar, and this year Cricket Australia (CA) – much to the ire of Prime Minister Scott Morrison – recognisees the pain it brings to Indigenous Australians

“After consulting with Indigenous leaders, CA is choosing not to market games as ‘Australia Day’ clashes, instead referring to them as ‘January 26’ matches because it wants be inclusive of all people Down Under, including First Nations people who view the date as a dark day in the nation’s history.

However, Mr Morrison was completely against the decision, telling Queensland’s 4RO radio: ‘A bit more focus on cricket, a little less focus on politics would be my message to Cricket Australia’.”

When he became Prime Minister, Scott Morrison repeated the lie of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that a voice for our First Nations People would create a third chamber in the Parliament. An Australian parliamentarian has never uttered a more significant load of crap.

The last paragraph of the above article …

“Morrison did not nominate where the idea for a new Indigenous day came from but said it’s a ‘good discussion to have’. After a request from Guardian Australia, the prime minister’s office was not able to nominate any process of consultation to consider the idea.”

… is yet another example of the Prime Minister not wanting us to have an opinion but more importantly, not wanting Indigenous folk to view themselves in a situation of modernity. He doesn’t want them and us to focus on politics in case we might see his philosophy differently than he does.

In my lifetime, Indigenous Australians have taken considerable strides in sport, education, the arts, and health.

Of the last eight Indigenous Australians of the year, four have been sportspeople. (Lionel Rose, 1968; Yvonne Goolagong, 1971; Cathy Freeman, 1998; and Adam Goodes, 2014).

Each was a fine choice, but at the same time, when it happens, it can be controversial. Success by individuals doesn’t always reflect itself at a community level.

Australian Rules football, rugby, and many other sports are dotted with champions’ names.

More Aboriginals are now entering politics, becoming doctors and academics.

In the arts, we have The Bangarra Dance Company, now a worldwide success. Painters Albert Namatjira and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and many others adorn galleries’ walls throughout the world. More Aboriginals are now attending university than at any time in history.

The following quote is taken from a Covenant statement of the Uniting Church 1994:

“We lament that our people took your land from you as if it were land belonging to nobody, and often responded with great violence to the resistance of your people; our people took from you your means of livelihood, and desecrated many sacred places. Our justice system discriminated against you, and the high incarceration rate of your people and the number of Black deaths in custody show that the denial of justice continues today.”

What is needed is a date in which we can celebrate an Australia Day in which with the use of truth-telling we can create a narrative that satisfies the history of our First Australians and at the same time defines who we are in the world we inhabit.

Do the majority of Australians have an opinion on when Australia Day should be celebrated? Apparently not:

“A poll commissioned by progressive think tank Australia Institute found 56% didn’t care when the national day was held, while a separate poll from conservative group the Institute of Public Affairs resulted in 70% support for keeping Australia Day on January 26.”

Do you remember the Uluru Statement from the Heart?

“The Uluru Statement from the Heart was released on May 26 2017 by delegates to the First Nations National Constitutional Convention, held over four days near Uluru in Central Australia.”

The Government’s rejection of the statement that the public greeted with some enthusiasm was, in my view, indefensible. It was an act of “political bastardry” that told our First Nations People that they were wasting their time.

“This act of political bastardry cannot be left unanswered and must be answered with no less than the full outrage it deserves.”

Before any Government can find an Australia Day worthy of celebration it must include all the nations now settled on our shores.

However, it will always be considered unworthy unless our First Nations People have their words flown on eagles’ wings, at the forefront of all the Indigenous nations now gathered.

In recent times our conservative governments have rejected all Indigenous folks’ efforts to advance their people and their voices.

They always seem to stop short when the word “equal” appears before them.

Then words like “know your place” show their white on black and it is like a barrier that can never be overcome. Sadly, racism is alive and well in 2021 as it was in 1788.

Until the conservatives in the government can comprehend the words equality, reconcile and unify, we will never celebrate a real Australia Day.

In closing, here’s a quiz: Who said this?

“We could all make a list of the things that should be better: trust in politicians, economic competitiveness, standards in schools, safety on our streets (especially in Melbourne), congested roads and inefficient public transport, and – yes – the well-being of the First Australians, but is anything to be gained by this annual cycle of agonizing over the date of our national day?”

My thought for the day

Never allow racism to disguise itself in the cloak of nationalism.

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9 comments

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  1. Maurice McGahey

    Passed on from another researcher –

    Really interesting read

    It is Australia Day

    Same debate every year but If you have 5 mins have a read about the importance of Australia Day and why the 26th was chosen 🇦🇺
    Captain Cook did not arrive in Australia on the 26th of January. The Landing of Captain Cook in Sydney happened on the 28th of April 1770 – not on the 26th of January 1770.
    The First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay on the 18th of January. The 26th was chosen as Australia Day for a different reason; however, Captain Cook’s landing was included in Australia Day celebrations as a reminder of a significant historical event.
    Since the extravagant bicentenary celebrations of 1988, when Sydney-siders decided Captain Cook’s landing should become the focus of the Australia Day commemoration, the importance of this date for all Australians has begun to fade.
    Now, a generation later, it’s all but lost.
    This is because our politicians and educators have not been doing a good job promoting the day. Our politicians have not been advertising the real reason for Australia Day, and our educators have not been teaching our children the importance of the 26th of January to all Australians.
    The media, as usual, is happy to twist the truth for the sake of controversy.
    In recent years, the media has helped fan the flames of discontent among the Aboriginal community Many are now so offended by what they see as a celebration of the beginning of the darkest days of Aboriginal history, they want the date changed.
    Various local Councils are seeking to remove themselves from Australia Day celebrations, even refusing to participate in citizenship ceremonies, and calls are going out to have Australia Day on a different day.
    Captain Cook didn’t land on the 26th of January. So changing the date of any celebration of Captain Cook’s landing would not have any impact on Australia Day, but maybe it would clear the way for the truth about Australia Day.
    The reality is, the Aborigines in this country suffered terribly under the hands of British colonialism. This is as much Australia’s history as the landing of the first fleet, and both should be remembered, equally. Both should be taught, side by side, in our schools.
    Australians of today abhor what was done under British governance to the Aborigines. We abhor what was done under British governance to the Irish and many other cultures around the world. So, after the horrors of WWII, we decided to fix it.
    We became our own people.
    On the 26th of January 1949, the Australian nationality came into existence when the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was enacted. That was the day we were first called Australians and allowed to travel with Passports as Australians.
    Under the Nationality Act 1920 (Cth), all Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders born after January 1, 1921, gained the status of British subjects. In 1949, therefore, they automatically became Australian citizens under the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948.
    Before that special date, all people living in Australia, including Aborigines born after 1921, were called ‘British Subjects’ and forced to travel on British Passports and fight in British wars.
    We all became Australians on the same day!
    This is why we celebrate Australia Day on the 26th of January!
    This was the day Australians became free to make our own decisions about which wars we would fight and how our citizens would be treated. It was the day Aborigines were declared Australians.
    Until this date, Aborigines were not protected by law. For the first time since Cook’s landing, this new Act gave Aboriginal Australians by inference and precedent the full protection of Australian law.
    Because of this Act, the government became free to help Aborigines, and since that day much has been done to assist Aboriginal Australians, including saying ‘sorry’ for the previous atrocities done before this law came into being.
    This was a great day for all Australians!
    This is why the 26th of January is the day new Australians receive their citizenship. It is a day which celebrates the implementation of the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948 – the Act which gave freedom and protection to the first Australians and gives all Australians, old and new, the right to live under the protection of Australian Law, united as one nation.
    Now, isn’t that cause for celebration?
    Education is key! There is a great need for education on the real reason we celebrate Australia Day on the 26th of January. This reason needs to be advertised and taught in schools. We all need to remember this one very special day in Australia’s history, when freedom came to all Australians.
    What was achieved that day is something for which all Australians can be proud!
    We need to remember both the good and the bad in our history, but the emphasis must be the freedom and unity all Australians now have, because of what was done on the 26th of January 1949, to allow all of us to live without fear in a land of peace.
    Isn’t it time all Australians were taught the real reason we celebrate Australia Day on Jan 26th?

    The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was passed and came into effect on Australia Day, 26 January 1949. The Act created Australian citizenship and the conditions by which it could be acquired. The main provisions of the Act were that: Anyone defined as an Australian citizen also became or retained the status of British subject. (THIS DOES INCLUDE ABORIGINALS, they were/are not exempted).

  2. OnceWasALiberal

    I too am “almost 80 years of age”, and ashamed of the way we have developed. Sadly, I think we can only get worse under a prime minister who publicly lied about the issue of slavery and, more recently, expressed concern at the discomfort of those who conducted the armed invasion of this country and the subsequent attempts at genocide.

  3. Bronte ALLAN

    Well said, as usual John! I am not quite 80 yet, but agree wholeheartedly with what you are proposing, in so far as we NEED a new National Anthem, a NEW “Australian” flag & a NEW date to celebrate every person who lives in Australia, not just the fucking privileged bloody right wing ultra conservative so-called “liberal” bastards. Fucking Slo Mo & his cohorts MUST go!

  4. wam

    I was designated as an ignorant idiot for associating jan 26th with the flag raising when I should be celebrating the 26th as the day in 1949 when we all became Australian citizens including Aborigines.
    (As Aborigines were not excluded they probably were part of it although they couldn’t vote.)

    ps
    Ban, the day before we had a 5 day outline of ‘prime times for criminal acts’
    Just the frustrations of a clp editor whose papers if cut and paste from southern murdoch papers, usually brisbane or adelaide

  5. John Richter

    I’m keeping a list of the influencers that use half truths to divide our country. Pray for our media and bureaucrats, not all of them will make it through this.
    47, not going to take it anymore. The pension fund will be returned. The land sold to foreign corporations returned. The manufacturing returned. And Churches like Hillsong removed from our parliament.
    Our ancestors, black and white, fought for these things.
    Aussie passports were issued on the 26th January 1948 after we decided to think for ourselves.
    Education is a weapon in the wrong hands.

  6. Jano from the Gong !

    I agree with everything, what John has said ,and suggested ..But there is no use- crying over spilt milk on this issues ,,year after year , !!!!!!! . Every year ..the same message is re-cycled , again and again … Modern day- white people are not to blame for this Issue !! ..It happened long ago ..These scars ,,these memories ,,there for ,need to be dealt with ..with sensitivity – in a healing spirit ..In a healing and moving forward manner ,,,Reliving the past ,over and and over again ,is not the way forward !!!!!!!!! ,,we need to find a way ..that brings healing ……….. ( .A day ,when Black and white . can unite ! ) – lets find that Day ! ………………………………….

  7. Kangaroo Jack

    We old white men do owe our indigenous brethren an apology now. Not so much for the crimes of our forebears, but for our crimes against them right this minute.

    John thoughtfully pointed out only once ever shaking hands with a black man. Pastor Doug Nichols, well before he was a “sir”. I was born in outback NSW and well remember as a four year old, my father, the local Methodist minister walking out to the gate and opening it, and assisting a sick old black man down the path, onto the veranda and onto a comfortable chair which was one of several sitting on the all round veranda, and asking me (age 4) to sit and keep the man company. My first introduction to alcoholism and it’s effects on our black brethren.

    Dad went and made him a couple of sandwiches and a cup of tea for both of them, and they sat and talked until the man came back from his alcoholic stupor and rejoined the living. He then took the old man around the corner of the veranda to the screened sleep out, also part of the veranda, and laid him on one of the 2 beds, and sat with him and talked and prayed until the man slept.

    My dad said “If you live, as you wish others would live, then it is enough”.

    We have not questioned government on the behaviour of the police.
    We have not required reason from our court system, at any level, for their treatment of our brethren.
    A white drug addict will walk out of court based on his inability to separate right and wrong. His habit is a mitigation.
    An aboriginal in the same situation, in the same court, will have his drug addiction used as a point in aggravation. How the fuck is that fair?
    We keep appointing arseholes to parliament who see status quo vis a vis Aboriginals as all good.
    We only have respect for Aboriginals who are sports stars, because most whitefellas don’t have the brains to understand words of 7 letters or more. We are generally morons. Readers of IA are a separate class of educated individuals who may or may not display a thoughtful consideration of the issues confronted by a nation of blackfellas.

    John reflects on his experience of other blackfellas:

    “Other dark-skinned faces have just walked by with a look of resignation as I have acknowledged them in the street. Am I ashamed of not making a more significant effort? ”

    In truth it wasn’t you. It was us. That man has spent his lifetime dealing with whitefellas – particularly cops. Why the fuck would he look up to see another white face in a sea of white faces?

    Child welfare and the churches – stealing him for being a black child.
    Cops – taking him away after his mum and dad were sent to jail and sticking him with a church to be raped and abused.
    Cops – arresting him for being black.
    Churches – implied approval from the government for the rape and abuse.
    Courts – sentencing him for being black.
    Employers – giving him no chance because he is black.
    Real estate agents – rejecting his accommodation applications – yep – same thing. He’s black.
    Average missus on the Australian street calling the cops because.. a black man just walked past.
    Average bloke in the city – not seeing him except as some form of threat because he’s black.

    We all owe him an apology. Today. For not speaking up. For not decrying what has been done in our name. By our successive governments. None of this monstrous bullshit about “ooooh it was in the past. That is self serving bullshit. Every one of us is to blame, today because we don’t ask questions of our politicians and we have no moral expectations of our police. That is US TODAY. Not our grandfathers.

    And it doesn’t matter a gnat’s left nut, why we have 26th January as a white celebration. It shouldn’t be that day, and if you skive off back to history and make a case for it to be that day, then you’re thick. It’s the date of the invasion. No ifs, buts or maybes. Try utilising your brain in a more sensitive way, than how many houses you can purchase tomorrow with your super fund.

    It’s RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

  8. Jane

    Having our nations stolen is one thing, and it’s bad enough.
    But don’t downplay the genocide of our peoples and cultures, our 200 year enslavement which only ended in the 1970’s, the continuing Stolen Generations (Yes. Continuing. So long as there are aboriginal children who are raised outside of Culture and Community) the rape torment of our women and children, the torture and killing of our men, the destruction of our history and homes and the desecration and foul treatment of our sacred places. This is more than just being forced to share our land.

    And a note to Mr Morrison.
    A little less focus on cricket, and a lot more focus on doing his job for once, would be my advice to the Pitiful Minister.

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