The level of erasure of history, and public opinion, which is evident in the statements and attitudes of politicians such as Scott Morrison are mind boggling for 2018. Take, for example, this tweet which he wrote and shared recently which apparently has been done in response to more local councils moving to change the date on which their community celebrates the annual event ‘Australia Day’.
It is exhausting that the political force-feeding of Australia Day rhetoric has already begun in September, but this indicates the direction with the LNP are determined to take their branding. The fact that these councils located in various parts of Australia, are responding to the people and communities which they represent does not seem to matter to Prime Minister Morrison. Instead the focus of this tweet, the subsequent television and traditional print media interviews he has done on the topic, seem instead to focus on his own desire to sell a false narrative that this country as we know it ‘began’ with invasion. And while it might seem like I am presently anti-LNP I want to make it clear that I am disappointed with labor, who for some unknown reason took the opportunity to come out on Twitter and also make it clear that they too are committed to upholding ‘Australia Day’ on January 26th. I do not subscribe to any single political party, and presently neither major party are giving me any hope. See this tweet from Tanya Plibersek, why does Labor support keeping Australia Day on this date?
Millennials are criticised for many things, but at least we are responsive and adaptive. The current array of major political candidates and policy don’t seem to have changed at all since I reached voting age, if anything they just seem to have merged into a blur of similar policy, lack of action, and a whole heap of infighting and corruption. And it is becoming clear that so much of what we are seeing out of Canberra is based on selling a brand, anything that will be assist them to hold power for a few more years – even when they don’t understand what they claim to be advocating for…
Where is the substance?!
But back to Morrison, and the LNP, as they are presently the people who hold the reigns…
Using the term ‘indulgent’ to refer to people being aware and respectful of attempted genocide, is truly repugnant. It’s nasty. For the First Peoples of this land, January 26th is our day of mourning, and has formally been marked as such since 1938. This date is also marked as Survival Day.
There is nothing sacred about an Australia Day being celebrated on January 26th. The date of Australia Day has fluctuated over time, and has only been a public holiday since 1994.
There presently exists an opportunity for the LNP to create policy, and movement which would see them be less polarising. Polls reveal that many Australians do not care when the date of Australia Day is, as long as there is a public holiday, and we know from years of protests that large numbers of people actively want the date moved to any day other than January 26th. But there are no negotiations, no meeting the middle, and no progress with those presently in power. We are seeing this with climate change, asylum seeker, and issues which impact the systemic oppression and displacement of Indigenous peoples.
Why and how did modern Australia commence on January 26th, 1788?
So with both the LNP and Labor coming out months in advance to remind us that Australia Day must take place on January 26th the question must be asked – WHY? Why is this the point in time where we draw a line, and say this is where it all began?
This disrespects and dismisses so many incredible facts which should be celebrated and acknowledged globally – it would be smart business to embrace and highlight in our National story that the First Peoples here are the oldest continuous culture in the WORLD!
60,000 years of agriculture, trade, engineering, invention, ecology, astronomy, and complex political and social networks. First Peoples, as well as trading with Nations from across this continent, also had peaceful, successful trade and engagement with people from around this globe prior to the brutal invasion by the British.
What began in 1788 was violence, the introduction of disease, torture, destruction of the environment, and massacres.
In October 1794 some settlers, seeking to frighten Aboriginal people by example, caught a boy, bound him hand and foot, dragged his naked body a number of times across the red hot embers of the fire, before throwing the half dead body youth in a river and then shooting him.
Blood on the Wattle: Massacres and maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788. Bruce Elder (2000) p.12.
The above example is one perpetrated by settlers, who having destroyed much of the land, food, and water supplies which First People’s relied on and had cared for for millennia, sought also to destroy the people who as those with sovereignty on the land, were clearly a nuisance. The brutality with which this has been perpetuated is abhorrent. Such acts, including the theft of the land, has not been redressed.
But the above is an example of the settlers behaviour, perhaps the behaviour, attitude, and honour of the men who our government now revere with countless monuments, such as Lachlan Macquarie, were far more worthy? Is this perhaps what we are reflecting on and celebrating on January 26th?
On any occasion of seeing or falling in with the Natives, either in Bodies or Singly, they are to be called upon, by your friendly Native Guides, to surrender themselves to you as Prisoners of War. If they refuse to do so, make the least show of resistance, or attempt to run away from you, you will fire upon and compel them to surrender, breaking and destroying the Spears, Clubs and Waddies of all those you take Prisoners. Such natives as happen to be killed on such occasions, if grown up men, are to be hanged up on Trees in Conspicuous Situations, to Strike the Survivors with the greater terror.
– Governor Lachlan Macquarie, fifth Governor of New South Wales.
It is not reasonable to demand that First People’s ‘get over’ the attempted genocide of our people, theft of our lands, stealing of our children, and ongoing systemic oppression – calling a movement which seeks to acknowledge these atrocities ‘indulgent self loathing’ whilst simultaneously clinging and demanding that the short term tradition of ‘celebrating’ this nation on January 26th be protected, defended, and upheld. Much of the general population are no longer comfortable celebrating on such a divisive day, the truth of ‘modern Australias’ history is one which more and more people understand, and want to respond to accordingly. Protests are growing significantly, but have been taking place for decades. What kind of leader actually dedicates time in television interviews, social media, and traditional media print to demanding and defending something like this? Threatening and penalising local councils which seek to move their celebrations.
But it is clear that the politicians fighting for Australia Day, do not actually understand what it is they are defending.
Neither listening, nor truth telling seem to be a staple of this government.
How can the politicians claim that calling for Australia Day to be reconsidered is ‘politicising’ it. It is already a deeply political day, when it is, what it marks, its origins, and the ways in which federal politicians are inserting themselves to insist that it remain as and how it is – it is unavoidably political already.