“A day that marked the beginning of us fighting for survival”. First Nations people share their perspectives on 26 January


A poll of the TDA audience found nearly 80% of respondents said they believe the public holiday on 26 January should be changed. TDA spoke to eight First Nations people about their perspectives on the date.

Here’s what they said.

“Not only does this date remind us of the beginning of atrocities committed toward Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it also feels as though this day celebrates the continuation of dispossession, removal, incarceration and the death of our people. This day is celebrating the privilege that so many people have on the back and blood of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” – Emily, a Walbunja Yuin woman

“On the 26th we grieve. It seems nonsensical that a date that was historically moved about now has such an opposition to being moved (or better yet, abolished) especially when we Indigenous people are crying out with our words and hearts to just have our ancestors’ and generational trauma genuinely recognised and respected. To me, the refusal to engage with us on the issue invalidates government efforts to make amends. It signifies hollow words from our leaders and a total lack of education allowing for empathy in our population.” – Hannah, a Boonwurrung woman

“A day the rest of Australia expects us to join in on their celebrations, dance and drinks over my ancestors’ graves? I’ll pass.” – Allira, a Gamilaroi woman

“It should be marked for what it truly is – a day of mourning and a day that marked the beginning of us fighting for survival. For many people, it’s a poor excuse to remain willfully ignorant of the history of Australia and get drunk. Meanwhile, it would be considered disrespectful to throw a party on ANZAC Day. Why can’t people have the same level of consideration and respect for us?” – Alannah, a Ngarrindjeri woman
“My personal view is that the debate over this date is distracting from the real issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people… The primary issues affecting these people in both urban and rural settings are health, education and family breakdown.” – Frazer, a Mununjali man

“January 26 is and always will be Invasion Day. It’s a day that marks the beginning of the rape and genocide of the oldest civilisation in the world. Of my family. Australia Day wasn’t even celebrated on this date until 1994, yet the Government and a number of vocal Australians act like it’s some sacred date.” – Gabrielle, a Jaadwa woman

“I think the idea of Australia Day is something worth celebrating. As a whole nation we should celebrate the progress we are beginning to make on the recognition of all cultures that exist on our land and we should also use it as a chance to reflect on the traumatic past that created our nation. I believe that if we want to celebrate it, there should be a different date to do so that encompasses the great things about our country.” – Maddy, a Kureinji woman

“It was a formally declared Day of Mourning for Aboriginal people, well before it was formally recognised as a national holiday. I just want my space to mourn, to be with my people, to remember those that can’t be with us, and to find unity in our survival. It does hurt to see people celebrate a nation built on your attempted genocide… It’s disrespectful and I dread the month of January every year. I don’t want to spend the first month of the year having to defend my right to mourn.” – Phoebe, a Bundjalung and Worimi woman

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