Why is change the date a thing “all of a sudden”?
It’s not. It’s always been a traumatic day for Indigenous people. As a wider population, we’re just more educated about the injustices against Indigenous people now because we have access to better education and more communication. Indigenous people are relaying and learning about what’s happened/happening to them, and it’s making them angry. Rightly so. And thanks to social media, Indigenous people now have access to a wider audience and are sharing their histories, their truths and their messages. Some of us non-Indigenous people are listening and have come to realise the propaganda we were sold by our pro-coloniser institutions. We’ve profited off of the pain of others and we’re sad and angry too. We can also see that it hasn’t ended; there is less space to hide that the trauma and institutionalised oppression continues.
“But I didn’t do anything. Why should I be made to feel guilty just because I am white? My family has lived in Australia for XY years.”
No one is saying that you personally oppressed an entire race. I, myself, am from a very white family that came to Australia a very long time ago. But so what? Lack of culpability does not and should not lull us into apathy. Apathy is not just a lack of compassion and action, apathy is also not speaking up and out when we see injustices, apathy is fostering and then ignoring unfair social structures and then allowing them to continue.
Here is an example I used recently of why I get annoyed about the apathy toward racially charged trauma: you may never have been sexually abused, but if someone told you about their traumatic rape or about the history of sexual abuse within their family or community, then you wouldn’t just say “oh well, I didn’t do it, get over it” and walk away.
No. You (should) show compassion and you (should) listen and you (should) RECOGNISE and RESPECT a person’s or people’s trauma. Now, take that aforementioned theoretical rape and add to it a multitude of traumas over hundreds of years, including targeted massacres, the breakup of families, a literal campaign to breed you out of existence and on-going social and institutional oppression. Imagine the hurt. If you feel empathetic toward the pain of the sexual abuse victim but can’t understand the hurt carried by Indigenous people, then perhaps ask yourself why (hint, it’s probably institutionalised racism).
Indigenous people pass down their culture, generation to generation, in stories, in memories and in tears. Imagine being born with a cultural memory; but the cultural memory is one of being hated and being hurt. That hurt is placed on your shoulders from birth, following you your whole life. Think about your privilege, as a non-Indigenous person, to not have to carry an emotional sorrow like that.
Australia Day – January 26th – marks the day that the oppression and hurt started for Indigenous Australians. To celebrate this day as a “national day to be proud of our country” is cruel and it sends the wrong message about what Australia should be proud of. I want Australia to be a country that acknowledges its past, shows remorse for it, and attempts to make reparations. The first of many steps we as a nation need to make toward healing could be as small as changing a date. We’ve done it before – seriously, look it up – it’s not hard. Let’s do it.
Educate. Listen. Be compassionate. Change the date to represent a day we can ALL be proud of.
PS: below is a list of some countries that had Indigenous people that were colonised. See if you can spot which one is not like the others.
Australia: The anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
Canada (1st July): The anniversary of the effective date of the Constitution which united the three separate colonies of the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick into a single Dominion within the British Empire called Canada.
New Zealand (Waitangi Day – 6th Feb): The anniversary of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty on 6 February 1840, regarded as New Zealand’s founding document.
South Africa (Freedom Day – 27th April): The anniversary of the very first democratic elections in 1994 when all citizens 18 years and older had the right to vote.
Ah, yeah. Only one of these celebrates colonisation.