Lack of empathy towards Indigenous Australians surrounding the history of January 26 needs to improve

Lack of empathy towards Indigenous Australians surrounding the history of January 26 needs to improve

By Francesca Atkinson

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are often reminded of the grief Indigenous Australian’s have been put through since the time Great Britain invaded their land and colonised it as their own.

Indigenous Australian’s often find it unbearable to celebrate January 26 as Australia Day rather observing the day as one of survival for their people.

Terri Jarrett of Gumbaynggirr heritage has seen first hand the effects January 26 has on her people.

Ms Jarrett said January 26 is not only disrespectful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but shows the lack of understanding and education of the true background of our country.

“This is the day you came and stole our land, our culture, our language, our spirituality with the land, all of that, you took it that day, but you want us to sit here and celebrate with you, that’s not going to work,” she said.

Ms Jarrett said true Aboriginal history is not taught in Australia’s current education system and this heavily impacts the lack of importance shown towards Australia’s original landowners and inhabitants.

“They’ve changed the date before so I don’t know what the issue is and they [non-indigenous people] are so culturally unaware, they just don’t care…” Ms Jarrett said.

Several councils around Australia have decided to implicate changes for Australia Day events held in their electorates from 2018 onwards.

Kim Le Cerf, Mayor and Councillor of Melbourne’s City of Darebin said the council voted to change their usual Australia Day proceedings because many people in their electorate believed they should do so.

Mayor Le Cerf said she felt uneasy while overseeing citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day earlier this year and the council started to create a discussion from there.

“Darebin City Council took a decision in August to acknowledge that January 26 marks the beginning of the invasion of Australia and the invasion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands,” she said.

Mayor Le Cerf said January 26 was the beginning of the oppression of the first people who were here and the council believes the present national day does not acknowledge that.

“Australia Day should be a day that is about celebrating together as a nation and currently being on January 26 cannot unite all Australians and is more divisive…

“I think there’s a lot to do in terms of developing that understanding… the decision we took was about acknowledging that and in our opinions being decent and compassionate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Mayor Le Cerf said.

Since the vote, the Federal Government has made the decision to withhold the City of Darebin from holding citizenship ceremonies any time of the year.

Councillor Bruce Hull from Adelaide’s City of Marion council attempted to follow in the footsteps of the City of Darebin but his motion to change January 26 events was unsuccessful.

Cr Hull said a local Aboriginal man began provoking the subject of Australia Day through social media and it brought attention to him about issues surrounding the current public holiday.

Similar to Darebin Council, the City of Marion were scrutinised by the government because the current Federal Government believes local councils should stay out of the discussion.

“Local government are the level of government that have the most dealings with Aboriginal Australians on a daily basis, the people in Canberra won’t have the same relationship and contact as we do,” Cr Hull said.

As the discussion of Australia Day being held on January 26 heats up, it is clear that more needs to be done to educate society on the significance of the date.

From there the Federal Government need to decide whether the public holiday should still remain on the day Australian land was invaded or if it should be changed.


Image Source: ABC

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