Australia Day – hijacked

Australian flagOn Australia Day I said I would post about the current debate that ssems to have  usurped its celebration. Opinions are polarised for and against. Some citizenship ceremonies were cancelled. Extra police patrols were put in place to quell any potential overflow of heated debate. People seem to either be for it or against it. Is it to be  celebrated as the birth of the nation? Or is it to be mourned as Invasion Day, the beginning of horrors perpetrated in the name of civilisation on the local indigenous peoples? Should the date be changed? Yes. No. Maybe…

On a brighter note the day was surprisingly civilised. Only some minor scuffles. No more than usual it would seem. Yes, there were protest rallies and marches. Equally, there were celebrations. News reports gave coverage to both.

Any voice of reasonableness seemed to be drowned in howls of protest. Welcome to the age of political correctness gone wrong. My opinion. I don’t normally enter into posting political stuff on my blog. It does not fit with what Soul Gifts is about.

On Australia Day I found the following article in our local newspaper,  The Advertiser. It is the voice of reason and respect that honours and acknowledges the past.  And presents a pathway for the future. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price is the author. She is an indigenous woman working as a Councillor in Alice Springs.

But that is shallow, meaningless, emotional rhetoric that does not represent the view of all Aboriginal people. It is high time we rejected the myth that all we blackfellas think and feel the same. Peddling that myth silences the majority of us who hold different views from the enshrined “Aboriginal viewpoint”.

Some have told you that the celebration of Australia Day causes us all great pain. Well, I have lived and worked all of my life in the far north, in Darwin and Alice Springs and in remote communities. I have never heard anybody talk of the pain of Australia Day.

Maybe there are some people, but everybody I know celebrates the day with enjoyment and pride. Perhaps all of this agony only happens in southern cities.

Let’s be honest about where the argument to change the date comes from: a place of resentment, anger and now hate. The vitriol that has been directed at me, as an Aboriginal woman, for voicing my opinion and for encouraging a healthier way of thinking, has been far, far worse then any alleged racist sentiment claimed to come from the celebration of Australia Day.

Is changing the date some kind of quick fix to obscure the failure to solve our real problems? Symbolic acts have no meaningful impact on Australia’s most marginalised, so why then are so many so happy to invest vast amounts of energy into a meaningless symbolic act? It is a pathetic attempt at appeasing resentment, anger and white guilt.

And it will do what? Will it take pain away, placate anger, assuage guilt? Will it save the lives of those we keep burying before their time? Will it get one illiterate child to school? Will it get one pregnant mum to stop drinking grog to avoid inflicting a lifetime of disability on an unborn baby? Will it keep one angry young man out of jail? Will it prevent the bashing of one girlfriend or wife – or even the sexual assault of one child? I can’t see how.

 This is a cop out – and a divisive one at that. Why don’t any of those shouting about the painfulness of January 26 ever mention the pain and suffering caused by the abuse of children, the violence against women and the incarceration of young men taught that law breaking is legitimate rebellion? This divisive gesture produces the following:

RESENTFUL Aboriginals who expect other Australians to change to appease their irrational anger;

WHITE Australians who accept the lie that all we blackfellas think the same and believe they are doing something meaningful to improve our lives;

ABORIGINAL people like me who know that symbolic acts do not make a single difference and who prefer that our people find genuine freedom and empowerment to initiate meaningful and lasting change;

WHITE Australians who have had a gutful of being made to feel guilty for the actions of others and who genuinely want our problems addressed but understand it takes real action on our part for that to happen; concerned immigrants who simply want to be proud and happy to be accepted as fellow citizens on Australia Day.

On January 26, 1949, we all became Australian citizens — including Aboriginal Australians – when the Nationality and Citizenship Act came into force. Neither my white or my black grandparents were citizens before that.

Aboriginal Australians, including my grandparents, were still denied some citizenship rights after that through state legislation, but that had all gone before I was born.

Torres Strait Islanders celebrate the “Coming of the Light”, the day the missionaries arrived to bring peace between their communities and protection from violent whites. The missionaries did the same thing for us in Central Australia.

The protesters want us to deny all of this in our own history. They have no right to do that.


Raili Tanska

In a multi-racial society, trust, understanding and tolerance are the cornerstones of peace and order.  Kamisese Mara

18 thoughts on “Australia Day – hijacked

  1. I confess to blind ignorance on this topic – but this certainly does sound like the voice of reason, and hopefully there are enough like-minded Australian citizens of whatever colour and race to settle the question sensibly. What IS the matter with today’s world?

    1. Australia was settled as a penal colony by Britain whose prisons were overcrowded with heinous criminals. Some of them were children who stole food because they were starving. What happened here was not pretty to put it mildly. Convicts were maltreated. Indigenous Australians were slaughtered. Their children were forcibly removed and put into ‘civilised’ white homes…. .
      I don’t know why people can’t move on from the sins of the past. Some view the world through lenses smudged with anger, hatred and prejudice instead of working together to find a way forward.

  2. That’s a great article Raili. I did hear the argument that changing the date wouldn’t change anything. We are kidding ourselves if we think it would. As Jacinta says there needs to be more change in the welfare and culture of how black and white communities communicate. I think acceptance of the past and respect for indigenous people has to be worked on. We can’t change the atrocities that happened but we can acknowledge them as the black spots on our history and try and move on.

  3. I do not believe for one moment that changing the date will change anything. I like Jacinta and love what she believes in. I personally can not be held accountable over the actions of previous generations. My family moved here from overseas long after Australia was founded. Our country has said sorry. Its time to move on look forward to uniting as a great nation. We have a multi cultural community – people from everywhere around the globe. Lets unit as one. (I will now get off my soapbox 🙂 )

  4. We have some of the same debates about holidays in the United States. Columbus Day for example is now called Indigenous Peoples Day to assuage the guilt we must all feel today for the sins of those who landed in our nation centuries ago and slaughtered Native Americans. It is complicated but I am sorry to see everything in our world politicized. I am hopeful we can move on and move forward appreciating all cultures and backgrounds. #SeniorSalon

    1. Yes, I think any country where there has been an ‘invasion’ experiences similar problems. What I don’t understand is why it is so hard to acknowledge the sins of the past and move on to a healthier and more respectful way of co-existing

  5. Whatever part of the world we live in, let’s draw a line under the sins of the past. We’ll try to move forward peacefully, with love and compassion uppermost in our hearts.

  6. Australia does have a particularly harsh history regarding its founding but has grown as a country into a world leader.
    That growth is what should be celebrated. The article you posted is full of reason and understanding.

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