The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back
Beds are Burning, Midnight Oil, from the album Diesel and Dust, 1987
I am posting this in reference to the current debate about what day Australia should use to celebrate their country.
Australia Day” is currently celebrated on 26 January, the anniversary of the British ‘First Fleet’s’ arrival to New South Wales, bringing with them convicts, to establish a permanent colony upon the land. Another words, it is when Britain invaded the land formerly occupied by Aboriginal peoples who had been there for something like 50,000 years. The British came in and ‘settled’, claiming the land as ‘terra nullius’, meaning no one owned the land, which they said gave them a right to claim it as theirs.
Of course people did live there, as already stated, and had for 50,000 years, but they were not European and Christian and did not farm the land, they hunter and gatherers. In 18th understanding this was not important as they were simply seen as ‘primitive savages’.
So – times have moved on, and many of the white folk of Australia have – to a fair extent – recognised the error of those days, and that the Aboriginal people are worthy of respect that their land was stolen from them. We cannot solve the problem by simply returning to the countries we came from, it is too late for that, so we need to work out a way to compromise, recognise the indigenous past and the mistakes the British made, and build a new future with our multicultural population.
However, we STILL celebrate Australia Day on that day. Many want a day when we can celebrate the modern multi-cultural 21st century Australia, but to me the 26th January is not that day. It is just a constant reminder to the Aboriginal peoples of the tragedy of that event.
If we want an Australia Day we can all enjoy, and not just the white population, then we should “move on” and choose another day. 26th January can still be recognised as the day the First Fleet came, but do impose on that an expectation that all Australians can celebrate it.