This is my dream…
The date is the 26th of January 1788, but I don’t know that at the time because my mob don’t record time by numbers and dates.
I am sitting with my family living a life my people have been living for over 65,000 years. I did not know it at the time but today life as I knew it was about to change forever.
My people lived off the land, we saw the land as our Mother and if we looked after her, she looked after us. We were free people who swam in crystal clear water holes, we ate wherever the food was, and everyone was part of my family.
We were a proud people we had laws, culture, and traditions, we had ceremonies and believed in the Dreamtime.
We didn’t all talk the same language and have the same customs there was actually over 250 different language groups on this land we now call Australia.
Life as we knew it was good but all that changed on the 26th of January 1788 when 11 big boats arrived. Those boats planted their British flag in our land and declared it Terra Nullius which means land belonging to no one but what about me what about my ancestors don’t we exist?
The people on those boats took our land, chopped down trees and put up fences so we could no longer access our food, they spread diseases that we had never seen before, they stole babies out of their mother’s arms, those poor Mothers often never saw their babies again.
Once the invaders had settled in, they then removed us from our traditional lands and threw us into missions, they labelled us as fauna we were not even seen as humans to them.
We tried to work with them we fought in both WW1 and WW2 as Australians and then when we returned, they wouldn’t even let us wear our uniform in public or March in the ANZAC Day March because it was an embarrassment for Australia.
Now the year is 2023 and the relationship between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people is changing this was seen in the 1967 Referendum when over 90% of non- Aboriginal Australians voted yes for the protection of Aboriginal people’s rights.
Then again in 2000 when over 250,000 people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of Reconciliation between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australians. Nelson Mandela, who was the South African Prime Minister, watched that march and said, “the bridge walk was evidence of a country wanting to heal itself and deal with the hurt of the past”. Also, in 2008 a National Apology was given by the Prime Minister at the time Kevin Rudd for the forceable removal of Aboriginal Children from their mothers and families by the Australian Government and then in 2022 the Australian Government after 234 years has agreed to fly the Aboriginal Flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
However, there is one thing that hasn’t changed and that is the date that Australians celebrate Australia Day!
Every year on the 26th of January the same date that those 11 boats arrived on Australian shores people all over Australia celebrate Australia Day, a day to celebrate all things we love about being Australian.
People fly Australian Flags, hang out with family and friends, there are BBQs, lamingtons and people head to the beach.
However, Australia Day for Aboriginal people is a day of mourning, a reminder of all the pain and suffering that started on that very day when the people aboard those 11 boats stepped ashore at Botany Bay, that pain and healing is still continuing 235 years later.
The 26th of January is a reminder of everything that was taken from us as Aboriginal people. We still need a day to celebrate Australia Day because we do live in a beautiful country with an amazing variety of different cultures, but it needs to be a date where all Australians can be part of it.
Australia Day needs to acknowledge that not all Australians come from those 11 boats, but we come from many different cultures some who have been here for over 65,000 years and others that have only recently started to call Australia home.
Aboriginal people are the world’s oldest surviving people, through all the hardship, hurt and pain we are still here, we survived!
We are now stronger and prouder then ever and that needs to be celebrated. Australia Day should celebrate all the people and cultures that live in Australia from Aboriginal cultural practices like smoking ceremonies and tradition dances to even just having a yarn about the old times, it should also include the other things that as Australians we love like wearing thongs, blue singlets with zinc on our nose, Chinese food, a yummy Curry or even a meat pie with tomato sauce.
Australia Day should be a day that we celebrate living in one of the luckiest countries in the world, a day where everyone can embrace and reflect on what it means to be Australian to them, this will never happen if Australia Day continues to be celebrated on the 26th of January… that date should be reserved for reflection, healing, nurturing, and understanding.
In my dream this would all be a reality.
The 26th of January is not a day of celebration it is a day of mourning and reflection. Australia Day should be celebrated on a day that all Australians can celebrate what it means to them to live in such a beautiful country.
Acknowledging the mistakes of the past and respecting the views and beliefs of everyone in order to move forward and build a better Australia for everyone.
Written by: Eden Lowrie-Jones