I emigrated to Australia in early January 1987, aged 20. Moved into a run-down three level terrace house in a dodgy inner suburb of Sydney, and began settling in to the new ways, sights and scents of my adopted home. The smell of sickly sweet mangoes rotting and fresh frangipani flowers still triggers memories of my first real Australian summer.
A national day of celebration was quickly upon me: January 26 is nominated as ‘Australia Day’, celebrating the first arrival of Captain Cook, who claimed this land for the British Crown. It’s a public holiday 3-day weekend, involving beer, barbecues, and ridiculous waving of the ugly Australian flag with patriotic pride.
That particular morning dawned hot, and outside our scruffy student home, on a wide street where the heat was already shimmering off the asphalt, folk began to gather in the park. There were banners, drums, didgeridoos, ochre body painting, and cardboard signs everywhere, plus lots of black.
Black armbands, black T-shirts, black flags, and of course black, brown, white, and pink faces. It was a peaceful protest parade.
Because for Australia’s indigenous population, it is a terrible day of mourning, and a reminder of the ‘sorry business’ which drenches their most recent history since Cook arrived.
Acts of murder, deliberate poisoning and introduction of diseases like Smallpox, plus the tortuous ongoing removal of children from their families:
“Official government estimates are that between one in ten and one in three indigenous Australian children were forcibly taken from their families and communities between 1910, and 1970, affecting all regions of the country.” – Wikipedia
[Have you seen ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ ? Watch it as soon as you can please.]
And we’re supposed to celebrate that?? Even after only 3 weeks in town, I knew it was wrong.
There’s a big push now to move the date of Australia Day elsewhere, and I want to add my voice. Pick any one of the other 364 days, for god’s sake! How hard can it be? It’s been re-named Invasion Day or Survival Day by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures, and is a time of sorrow and remembrance.
But cultural change is S L O W. Yet momentum is building, and a small but significant shift happened this year for the first time: the alternative youth radio station Triple J (which I still listen to because I’m, y’know, cool, and have to keep up with ’17’s world) changed the date of their ‘Hottest 100 Songs of the Year’ (a soundtrack to all-day backyard parties across the nation) from Jan 26 to the following day, out of respect.
In this year’s Hottest 100, a Darwin-born Aboriginal artist named Baker Boy, who raps in his native language of Yolnu Matha, came in at number 17.
“It’s perfect, so I can actually feel comfortable and have fun, instead of just thinking about what happened in Australia that day,” he said. “It’s a massive change, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people.”- NT News, Jan 28, 2018
Let’s celebrate with him; for the survival of his people, for their creativity and determination, and for the wicked dance beats he’s offering us in healing- such a killer chorus, and check out the synchro dance moves!
Please enjoy this live performance clip here:
And Australia: #changethedate
In gratitude for social evolution, G xO
PS: I’m submitting this as part of Forgiving Fridays at ForgivingConnects, for without acknowledgment and forgiveness, we can’t move forward.