Australia's national day

On so many levels we make an absolute drongo of ourselves on the 26th of January each year. In attempt to show the world how truly boozed-up we can get while eating barbeque-charred suasages, smashing tinnies and getting too much sun.

Australia day this year appears to be firing up some very well justified discussion. Most of it regarding how the day disregards the history and culture of Aboriginal Australians.

Amid a sea of American-strength, hyper-nationalistic behaviour (that in most cases is closeted 364 days of the year) our true colours come out. Red, White and Navy-Blue... Green and Gold... And for some reason, that I can't fathom, Eureka stockade flags.

For those who are lost at this point - The Eureka Stockade flag has become a bit of a bogan emblem in Australia. Much like the confederate flag in the USA or the music of The Clash in Britain. The Eureka stockade was a conflict between a bunch of pissed of Gold miners and the British colonial forces who were enforcing high licensing fees for mining at the time. So basically the flag represents a group of recent migrants who hated the established authorities and their way of life. The irony here is that the flag now appears to be flown when bogans (Australian red-necks) want to show recent immigrants how patriotic they are to the 'Australian' way of life, which was facilitated by the very government structure the flag was designed to piss off in 1854.

The Eureka stockade flag is the first, and most benign awkward factor of Australia Day. 

An example of an ignorant bogan. Image source -

An example of an ignorant bogan. Image source -

Jumping forward to the current year, 2017, we find ourselves again in a sea of rhetoric. Bobbing around on the surface is a conversation about the date of Australia day, the 26th of January. The reason we celebrate on the 26th of January is because on the same day in 1788 a bunch of British Navy ships landed in Sydney Harbour. They claimed it, and the boundless plains girt by sea beyond, in the name of Royal Britannia. 

You see the problem with celebrating this British discovery is that a bunch of other people had already found Australia. The Portuguese saw our sunburnt country around 1520, the Dutch around 1606 and there was another mob too...

Who was it again? Oh! The first people of this country who walked, waded, swam and floated here from Africa 60,000ish years ago.

The society those first settlers built was robust, self-sustaining, lawful and deeply spiritual. They embraced the many harsh and deadly environmental elements that this island nation hosts and they built the oldest human culture in the world. That culture is still intact and efficiently utilised today, or what's left of it is, I should say. 

On January 26, 1788, British colonial settlers initiated a genocide that lasted in some ways until the 1980's. That is the second thing about Australia day that is a bit awkward. Yes, I'm saying that genocide for 200 years is uncomfortable.

Australia day wasn't even a thing until the first official "Australia Day" in 1935. Furthermore, it wasn't declared a public holiday until 1994.

The loudest message I've heard this year is one to change the date. Changing the date would be significant because it would allow the following things to happen:

  1. An acknowledgement that the 26th of January is not a proud day in our history
  2. Recognition of our first people and our true history

There is a lot of fairly aggressive and confronting content out there this week. Most of it using guilt as the main approach.

Let's face it, guilt based communication can work well, but can be a negative way to initiate conversation. So I would like to put out a few of my own ideas to help make your Australia day celebrations a little bit less AWKWARD about the black history of white Australia.


My tips for a non-awkward Australia Day:

  1. Do not wear, fly or wave a Eureka stockade flag
  2. Understand the reason why the 26th of January is significant
  3. If your mates make racist jokes, pull them up.
  4. Attend an event that celebrates Aboriginal Australia - I'll be going to the Yabun Festival  - Come and find me and say hello!
  5. Finally, don't be awkward. It is OK to say 'Aboriginal'. Conversations bring heavily-loaded issues like the Indigenous Australian genocide into everyday conversations. It is these conversations that make people learn, understand and act. That shift in comfort, knowledge and behaviour is what makes positive change less awkward.
 

I would like to sign off by thanking the first peoples and custodians of the land I am currently on while writing this article, the Eora NATION.


A good way to stay in touch with Indigenous Australian recognition is to follow RECOGNISE.

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