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One Day, A Nation Day.

By Cally Jetta

The Cronulla Riots were a confronting eye opener for me.

I watched the footage and was shocked at just how easy it was for one idiot on a megaphone to whip up an angry mob already affected by sun and alcohol, and incite them to violence against people on the basis of their ethnicity. The footage that followed was just as disturbing and it forever changed how I felt about the Australian flag.

I’d never been a big fan of the flag, but I accepted the fact that others may not understand why it was offensive to Aboriginal people and that with time and education it would eventually be updated. I felt that Australians flew their flag because they were grateful for the many great things about the country they call home, and I respect that.

That all seemed to change in more recent years – not for everybody of course, but from my perspective the flag started to become synonymous with a bigoted Australia movement that was anti-immigrant and anti-Aboriginal. Bogans whom felt that a mullet and Southern Cross tattoo gave them the right to intimidate those they considered to look, sound and act less than ‘Aussie’.

It started to symbolise exclusion and ignorance towards non-white, non-Australian born citizens.

Our family refer to Australia Day as either Invasion or Survival Day. Both are accurate titles and represent the mixed emotions our mob often feel on this day – sadness and pain; but also pride and hope. Our children wear their Aboriginal flag shirts and usually have their faces painted. Our Aboriginal flag is proudly displayed on our car or front porch.

It’s our way of saying “we are still here and we are proud of who we are.” On several occasions other Australians have taken offence to our flag- they have yelled abuse at us while at traffic lights; thrown beer over it when it was on the back window of the car; and even lectured us on an occasion for being ‘disrespectful’ and ‘divisive’.

I think some people misinterpret Aboriginal people’s pride. They make the assumption that our flag is a threat or deliberate insult to their own. Or, that Aboriginal people are anti-white. Or, that we are not grateful for the positives in our lives.

For me personally none of that is true.

Genuine reconciliation is a dream of course. I’d love to think that one day Aboriginal culture, history and knowledge will take its rightful place in Australian society and that our people will finally feel properly recognised, respected and self-determined.

I am hugely grateful for my beautiful country, for my people and family and for the many non-Aboriginal family and friends in our lives who have made our struggles their own. We are grateful to our ancestors and Elders for surviving so much and for fighting so hard to remove racist policy and inequality and for ensuring our cultural identity and knowledge outlived the attempts to destroy them.

We are grateful for our land, sacred sites, waters, plants and animals.

It would be wonderful if one day we could all celebrate and connect with the unique culture and beauty of this country as well as acknowledge how far we have progressed together as a nation in solidarity. And on a date that does not have painful associations for the nation’s First Peoples.

I don’t think it’s an impossibility.

9 comments

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  1. Phil

    Since the Australian flag has been co-opted for overt and covert racist ends it no longer engenders my respect – its now got too much baggage – Cronulla being one instance of many.

    Our national flag, once a respected symbol of national unity has been degraded in more recent times to become associated with disunity and arrogance. Our flag has in fact been debased by so many of the very people who so vociferously claim its national pedigree. Our flag walked on as rubber thongs, drunk out of as beer stubby holders, drying the dishes as tea towels, wiped on by feet as door mats, worn in infantile likeness of cape draped super heroes and then held aloft by white supremacists in their public displays of aggression hate and racial vilification.

    Nope. Nope. Nope. Dump the flag.

    Australia desperately needs to become a republic. Break the bonds that have chained us all. Then we can have a new national day, a new flag. Let go the colonial baggage. Reconcile. Treaty. Equality and egalitarianism. We could be unique amongst the worlds nations.

  2. Jack Russell

    Yes, another flag. I like the idea of the First People’s flag to replace the union jack for a start, then public discussion about what else might be meaningful … if necessary … but my first preference is to adopt the First People’s flag entirely. It says everything (and it’s beautiful too).

    Cally, a great series … and there are many, many, many who feel the same way you do. :))

  3. Andrew Smith

    Howard, his coterie and influencers from the ’80s onwards were partly responsible, as an aid in deflecting from aggressive neo liberalism ie. socialism and deregulation for top corporates, and competition for the rest of business and society.

    When not dog whistling Asians, indigenous, refugees, immigration etc. they weaponised supposedly Australian icons and conservative symbolism to delineate lines in the sand targeting white Australians of both left and right for support (aka Goldwater in US). These included the flag, English language, ANZACs, Gallipoli, ‘mateship’, ‘Australian values’, whitewashed history, encouraging religion, hyping defence/security, the monarchy, sabotaged the republic referendum and seemed to view Australia, if not WASPish, as part of some Wasp ‘Anglospehere’ (graciously including white Catholics and Jews).

    Disturbingly too many Australians fell for it, or at least elements of or unwittingly, helping to ‘muddy the waters’ creating confusion while normalising what many of the more informed assumed were just electoral ‘tactics’. However, they were and are not ‘tactics’ but deep seated normalisation of white nativist ideology and strategy from the US including eugenics (founded in the UK) replaced with obsessions about immigration, population control and being played by oligarchs with strong direct link through 1930’s Germany; Trump and Brexit are branches of the same tree (ditto Central Eastern Europe).

  4. johno

    Nicely put Cally and commenters, thanks.

  5. Adrianne Haddow

    Great writing from the heart, Cally. Thank you.

    Your reasoned argument resonates with me.
    I feel that Australia Day has been usurped by the right wing, and racist elements spoiling for a fight. It has been politicised by stealth.

    I admire the strength and resilience of our indigenous people and their ability to survive all manner of slurs and assaults during the Anglo-European occupation of this country. Stay strong.

  6. wam

    The top left of flag is not respected by many Australian Scots, Irish and Welsh.

    The problems with the 26th January, as being not representative of all Australians, is obvious to anyone who stops to consider the history.

    Sadly, the same 40%, who voted no, are again screaming their ignorant pettiness.

    ps
    Unintentional use of capitals, Andrew??

  7. etnorb

    Very well said Cally! I think we MUST have our “own” flaq, not some throwback to when the British thought they ruled the world! I also think that Australia Day should be January 1st, as this was the date of Federation. Much better to celebrate “our” day when we are not “recognising” that January 26th was not really anyone’s day, well not if you are Indigenous or a “proper” true Australian!

  8. jimhaz

    Treating aboriginals as some sort of special “owner” of Australia will only prolong their agony.

    I would not be adverse to floating Australia day like some other holidays – by this I mean change it to be the something akin to the “Last Friday in January”. There was NO invasion day as there was no planned war.

  9. jimhaz

    [Cronulla being one instance of many]

    Cronulla was a good thing, a very good thing – it was a necessary rejection of muslim/middle eastern arrogance that got things out in the open so that they could begin repair (a repair only handicapped by muslim terrorism and clearcut excessive immigration).

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