The 26th of January is an important day to talk about. It is an emotive day for many reasons. AAP views this day as a day of mourning and grief for the Indigenous Peoples. We do not acknowledge the 26th of January as ‘Australia Day’, and we stand in solidarity with our First Nations communities in calling it Invasion Day. It always was, and always will be Aboriginal Land. In contrast, for many migrants, this day can be seen as a day of celebration. Celebrating their ‘Australian’ identity or citizenship, and the fact they came here for a better or new life. AAP recognises that some people find it difficult to reconcile their Asian Australian identity whilst being a settler on stolen land. In order to explore this and the nature of this relationship, we collated some responses from our AAP team, and asked them, ‘What does the 26th of January mean to you?’
To me, the 26th of January is a public holiday. I imagine people waving the Australian flag around on a beach, drinking beers and eating a sausage sizzle. To me, it’s not much more than that though. I don’t feel a strong emotion towards this day. There’s no sense of overwhelming pride and there are some lingering thoughts of ‘what are we really celebrating here’.
It used to be a day of celebration with family when I was a young child, with many places such as my local community organising barbecues and community events. Now that I know better, it is a day of mourning to Aboriginal peoples. It is a day of much debate that mainstream media chooses to painfully rehash once a year with the allocation of “Australia Day”, which has become so synonymous with White Australia. To me, now it is known as Invasion Day.
AAP Associate, Wurundjeri Country
While previously I viewed this day as one of celebrating Australia’s growth as a multicultural nation, I now view it as a day of mourning and grief for those indigenous to these lands. Although the growth of cultural and racial diversity in this country is important to me, it can’t be in exchange for acknowledging – or being deaf to this country’s tragic history and the culture and customs of its indigenous peoples that were forcibly superseded by colonisation.
Mike, Gadigal Land
To me, the 26th of January signifies the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous Australians which is largely reinforced through the whitewashing of Invasion Day as a celebration of Australia’s history and culture. Continuing to celebrate the 26th as “Australia Day” is detrimental to politics’ and society’s ability to recognise the harm and suffering caused to Indigenous Australians. I often see this achieved by ensuring that performative, lip-service behaviours and events are hailed as monumental milestones, while proactive and reformative actions are given a back seat and deemed to be too “left-wing” or an attack against Australian “values”. Recognising the trauma endured by Indigenous Australians, while holding space for them is what I believe to be the true essence of being an “Aussie”.
Lina, Dharug Country
The 26th of January is a harrowing day for the Traditional Custodians and Original Inhabitants of the land we call “Australia”. If we as a settler nation cannot acknowledge or commit to reparations for stolen land and genocide, then celebrating “Australia Day” is simply a continuation of violence. We should listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to understand how we can best celebrate our diversity and multiculturalism.
Deborah, Dharug Country
When I was living overseas, the only way that other students at my school would know I’m Australian is that on the 26th of January, all the Australians in the school would come together to celebrate Australia Day. It was the only day of the year that I could show off my identity and in retrospect, validate that I indeed was from Australia. At the time, most Australian students at my school were blonde and blue eyed, they had a strong Aussie accent. Now that I’m older and a lot more informed, I realised that I do not need to prove my identity to anyone, nor validate how ‘Australian’ I am. As a child of migrants, I can understand the longing and sometimes, desperation to want to fit in. But the 26 of January is not the day for that. We cannot say Australia is accepting of everyone until we acknowledge that this country was built on genocide and dispossesion of Indigenous Peoples. What we can do is start reflecting on whether we need this day to validate our identities as individuals and as a nation, and work towards reconciliation.
Michelle, Wurundjeri Country