February 9, 2016

Taylor Carre-Riddell

Aboriginal People Respond To "Australia Day".

Posted by BuzzFeed Oz on Sunday, January 24, 2016

For many of us, Australia Day entails a barbeque with family and friends, beer, a game of football. A relaxed, sociable day which helps to define “Aussie” culture- and give it its rightful appeal. January 26th is a day when we are all happy to delve into the quintessential Aussie stereotypes that we usually like to make fun of, or even distance ourselves from. Pegging a goon bag to a clothes line, showing off your tan lines, using the rubbish bin as cricket stumps are just a few of these stereotypical activities that we often use to spice up a “Sunday arvo.”

On such a joyful day for so many, it can be hard to even remind ourselves- yet alone adequately consider- that not everyone who calls Australia home has the same feelings about colonisation. This creates a cycle of hurt, disorientation and resentment for the first Indigenous Australians, who were thriving for forty thousand years before the First Fleet sailed in. But amongst the sculling of cold beer and wave-chasing at the beach, the social isolation and injustice that has prevailed since struggles to be anything more than passing afterthought in the minds of many.

Buzzfeed Oz’s Facebook page has recently uploaded a 3-minute video called Aboriginal People respond to “Australia Day”, as well as another shorter segment called Aboriginal People Respond to “Captain Cook.” As an avid consumer of this site’s content primarily for its youthful (and utterly meme worthy) humour, I was drawn to these videos. The serious, sombre tones departed from the usual light-hearted content. Indigenous people of all ages spoke about the trauma that impacts them as individuals and as a community. It is blatant, bitter, heavy and heart wrenching. A few of the lighter phrases that were used to describe James Cook included calling him “harbourer of plagues…and disease”, and a “mass murderer.” Australia Day is deemed “Invasion Day,” “a joke,” and “an offense.”
10-dark-secrets-australia-doesnt-want-you-to-know-2-23622-1411658071-32_dblbig 2The major appeal of these videos is that they evoke insight and empathy. They aim to educate and empower people like me and other non-Indigenous Australians, who mean well and who are willing to take in these heavy words, but who don’t know what to do with such information. In a world where celebration is one the positive cornerstones that make a culture and society, it’s hard to find solutions when January 26th is a day of relishing in national establishment and discovery for one group and an “insensitive” and “sadistic” event for another. In a recent SBS article, Celeste Liddle, an Indigenous feminist based in Melbourne, attempts to highlight another prevailing issue; that “…Indigenous activists and historians (who try) to bring the true nature of colonisation to the public’s attention (are labeled as) as being “black armband” views – just focused on negatives.”

With so much at stake, how can we make the heavily connoted story of Australia’s origins one that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians will take pride in telling?

In the Respond to Australia Day video, one lady confesses that she loves celebrating “being here” and “how beautiful this country is,” and a man added “[the country is] full of opportunity.” As our national anthem suggests, it seems that all communities can relish in our “boundless plains to share.” One man in the video offers a viable solution; why not celebrate our nation on the day that these boundless plains- the separate confederate states- combined to form one official nation on the 1st January 1901? That way, we can celebrate our nation in a way that doesn’t demean, and can be more inclusive of the first nations of this country. January the 1st would allow us to recognise Australia as a whole by including other cultures and positively acknowledging “how it was before [British colonisation].”

There is no denying that injustice against Aboriginals was still prevalent around the turn of the century, intentionally celebrating the beginning of a nation with the widespread suffering “on the 26th of January…is wrong. Just wrong.”

What seems right is that we move beyond just talk and raising awareness. Celeste offers non-Indigenous people practical guidance to help with such change; “…lend yourself and your banner-making skills to an Invasion Day protest; see our bands; talk to our elders. It’s to challenge yourself to stop reiterating the mistruths this country was built upon and commit to a better and more equitable future.”

In order to conjure a harmonious and progressive future like the one Celeste speaks of, I believe a good place to start is following Buzzfeed’s lead and creating outlets for Indigenous people to express their anger and dissatisfaction. We need to create change, because clearly, this day doesn’t serve the same celebratory purpose in every Australian’s life. We need a nation-wide solution that does not only bring healing and peace- but one that fosters a celebration that everyone will raise a beer to.

– Taylor Carre-Riddell

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