The 26 of January is the most debated holiday in our Australian calendar. On the 26 of January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack at Sydney Cove, declaring it a British colony. Exactly fifty years later, the date was marked as a public holiday - the Jubilee of British occupation. From that point on, the 26 was celebrated in evolving forms – first state wide, then nationally - until it officially came to be ‘Australia Day’ in 1994.
Due to fact that the date is historically one of invasion and colonisation, many Australians have called to change the date, arguing that we can celebrate our nation on a day less historically painful for our First Nations people. This side of the debate sees January 26 as a day of mourning.
Others see the day as an opportunity to reflect on our history and relationship with our country and celebrate the advancements that we have made. For some, mourning is reframed as a recognition of survival.
This rich debate that occurs annually is an opportunity to reflect on our own thoughts on the day and its meaning.
So, with the 26 of January approaching, we have collated different views on the day from Indigenous Australians for you to explore. Where your interest is sparked, we also encourage you to do some further reading and have some more conversations with others.
‘We Aboriginal People, cannot and will not forget that date’ – Claire Coleman
'When I was with 60,000 or so other people on the streets of Melbourne last 26 January, we were protesting the celebration of the date when our lands were invaded and our cultures destroyed.
26 January will always be a day of mourning to Indigenous people, it will continue to be a day of protest until the inequalities that hound my people to early death are corrected.
Creating another “Indigenous Day” will not change that. If you want to give Indigenous Australians our own day, give us 26 January, a day that is already important to us. Celebrate Australia Day on any other day – I don’t care which day.'
‘This date was the beginning of the loss’ - Sharnae Watson
'January 26 is offensive not only to Indigenous Australians but to millions who want to celebrate shamelessly on our national day.
This date was the beginning of the loss of culture, lack of knowledge and when Aboriginal people were removed from their traditional lands and stopped from practicing their language and culture.
Another problem with having Australia’s national day on January 26 is that it is a day that acknowledges European settlement as if it’s purely the only source of national identity and pride in Australia.'
'It shouldn't be this frivolous, frothy sort of stuff about barbecues' -Jakelin Troy
'It is a day of mourning because it does symbolise the invasion of our land. It makes people angry in our community, that Australians are celebrating on a day that is negative for us.
There are languages gone, people gone, there are cultural histories, knowledges that are gone as a result of 1788. I don't know how we can embody into the celebrations for the 26 of January.
It shouldn't be this frivolous, frothy sort of stuff about barbeques and coloured towels and spending the day at the beach. It should be, you know what does Australia day mean for all Australians?'
'We should actually be trying to work together' – Warren Mundine
'This all needs to stop.
It irritates me that every time it comes up, every year, you get the same old people coming out and arguing the same old cases, trying to divide the country when we should be actually be trying to work together.
If you want to make us feel good, then let's start dealing with the unemployment, the health and the education of Aboriginal people rather than dealing with this issue.'
‘Any other day of the year I’ll tie an Australian flag around my neck and I’ll run through the streets’ - Boney Brooke
'This is the best country in the world no doubt, but I can't separate January 26 from the fact that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than they are to go to school, or that my little sisters and my mum are more likely to be beaten and raped than anyone else's sisters and mum.
And that started from that day. So for me it's a difficult day and I don't want to celebrate it. But any other day of the year I'll tie an Australian flag around my neck and I'll run through the streets.'