Happy Invasion Day

To most people, we would be celebrating January 26th by saying “Happy Australia day,”  however, what is meant is actually “Invasion Day.”

On January 26th, 1788, the First Fleet anchored in Sydney and marked the beginnings of a long and aggressive settlement of Australian land. This momentous occasion has been celebrated this week with the national Australia Day public holiday, whereby individuals from all walks of life are encouraged to commemorate and support the arrival First Fleet and their beginnings of infringement upon the traditional caretakers of the land. In response, Amnesty International has published a petition on their website along this week with a series of articles which support and explore the current social issues, which are prevalent in modern Indigenous and Colonial culture.

The cultural insensitivities of this date are explored by a variety of Indigenous Australians and is a unique experience indifferent to tribal heritage, status and colour. Rodney Dillon, a Palawa man, and the Indigenous Rights Advisor for Amnesty International states that the ‘26th of January is a hard day for all of our mob. Aboriginal people always feel sad on Australia Day; it marks the end of freedom for our people,’. Those attitudes are further reiterated by Indigenous Australians such as Tammy Solonec, a Nigena woman and the Indigenous Rights Manager of Amnesty Australia, who claims that for her and her tribe Australia Day ‘is a painful and alienating day. It marks the start of the colonization and the suffering of our people— it is no celebration for us.’

This public outcry has been manifested through a variety of both physical and online activism as crowd-sourced campaigns are seen to take pilot over the governmental agency. The crude disregard of Indigenous history as demonstrated by the government in their continual denial, appropriation and celebration of White history is an appalling hypocrisy and has become no longer publicly accepted to go unchallenged. This public turmoil derived from Australia’s political hubris is sentiment which was epitomized through the essences of Fridays protests across capitals with huge crowds been drawn in major cities such as Hobart, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Indigenous Australian’s cultural 65,000-year history was violently and forcibly altered with the initiation of white settlement in 1788 by the First Fleet. The empirically classified Australian land of Terra nullius then opened itself to the colonization of the other and therefore became an icon for the beginnings of colonial rule and the prelude of suffering for the Indigenous culture. In response to this shared history, many modern-day movements now call for a reform of Australia Day with much online activism such as #StoriesOfSurvival and #ChangeTheDate going viral on a variety of social media platforms in order to shape and challenge traditional discourse.

The modern-day movement and activism of Indigenous culture thereby highlights the resilience and adaptability of Aboriginal heritage. Indigenous history and value must, therefore, become respected and incorporated into the modern Australian story in order for a prosperous and united Australian nation to be supported. Australia Day must, therefore, become a day celebrated by Australians for all Australians, not simply as a propaganda campaign for colonial rule. The vocal outcry by both parties of Australian culture for the necessity to both address and change the Australia day chronicle is a potent message needed to be heard by the government. History is a fluid narrative and although colonial Australian history is plastered with the racial atrocities of its past, it by no means implies that it cannot be addressed and redirected in its future.

Ellie Willis