NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #AustraliaDay or #InvasionDay #ChangetheDate Debate : Editorial from @KenWyattMP @LindaBurneyMP and Marion Scrymgour

“We can have anger at the past, the pain and the hurt … but at some point we’ve got to give our children a better future.

It’s not about Captain Arthur Phillip landing in Sydney. It’s about the way we’ve grown firstly into a federation, but … a country of incredible people.

The colour of our skin did matter once, but it doesn’t anymore.

It’s about a society that has many hues of colour.”

Strongly supporting the date of the national day remaining as it is,  Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Australia’s history was marked with events “that none of us on reflection like”. See full SMH Article Part 1 below

How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country?

Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation.

Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day.

Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Marion Scrymgour is a former CEO of Wurli Wurlinjang Aboriginal Corporation and Chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory. Currently CEO Tiwi Islands Regional Government, and formerly a senior Minister in the NT Cabinet : see in full Part 2 Below

 ” As another Australia Day comes around, calls get louder to change the date, or the name. To Indigenous Australians, January 26 marks an invasion. But as international law expert Rowan Nicholson explains today, it does to international law as well.

He writes that while we don’t need European law, which was tainted by racism and colonialism, to validate the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the landing of the British on Australian soil counts as an invasion based on their legal definitions at the time.

So if it was an invasion according to the Indigenous peoples and the colonisers, perhaps the term shouldn’t be so contentious after all.”

Read The Conversation HERE 

Pay the Rent.  “It is the theme of this year’s Invasion Day rally in Melbourne.

Pay The Rent is not a new concept.

It’s something that our old people came up with over 40 years ago. It was developed and fully endorsed by the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO) in the 1970s. NAIHO (a uniquely grassroots, representative organisation of Aboriginal people from all over Australia) was how our people grew the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health movement from the first Aboriginal health services in Redfern and Fitzroy to a nation-wide network of over 80 services within 10 years.

It was a remarkably successful large-scale self-help movement. We are reviving it to help ourselves.”

From The Big Smoke

It is possible to enjoy January 26 – to celebrate our country, and our many achievements – but it is equally important to reflect on our difficult and painful past.

While the dispossession and separation of First Nations families first occurred many years ago – it continues in different shapes and forms today.

The impact – through intergenerational trauma – can be seen and felt to this day.

We can see this in the disparity in quality of life outcomes between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to spend Australia Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of celebration, there are many ways to do this. They do not conflict “

Linda Burney ALP Sydney Member for Barton  : See in full Part 3 below

Part 1 : Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt says Australia Day should remain on January 26 and commemorations around the country instead mark both the “good and the bad” of the nation’s history since 1788.

In an exclusive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Mr Wyatt said Australia’s “dark beginnings” must be recognised in communities across the country but not overshadow celebrations of the “remarkable” multicultural country it has become.

Cautious about engaging in the culture war that has increasingly plagued the occasion, Mr Wyatt said the day was an opportunity for Australians of all backgrounds to bond as a nation but also acknowledge that many First Nations people found it difficult.

He said “first and foremost” it was a day to celebrate “the good things in life” with family, friends and community and respect each other’s contribution to the nation.

“Forget the date. Let’s celebrate what we have. Let’s celebrate our place as Indigenous Australians in Australian society. And let’s celebrate our achievements, our resilience, and the contribution that we are now making to broader Australian society,” he said.

Mr Wyatt, who is the first Indigenous man to be Minister for Indigenous Australians, said instead of rallying to move the date, Australians must engage in a new generation of “truth telling”.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt wants more recognition for indigenous Australians.

He said monuments such as the one erected at Myall Creek marking one of the darkest events in Australia’s colonial history were a positive step forward.

“Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people came together, acknowledged their past history of an event that left a deep scar.”

He said if that could be replicated across our nation, including the dual naming of towns and regions, it would be “an incredible step forward”.

“There is much to celebrate, there is much to remember, [but] let’s take the positive aspects of life,” Mr Wyatt said.

He said he knew some Indigenous leaders would be “disappointed” with his “optimism”.

“I think it is more important that if we want to change the future, that we have to be at the forefront of wanting those changes, because we see the benefits that will be derived from it,” he said.

“What I love about the generation of young people coming through now is that they are optimistic. They see an incredible future ahead of themselves.”

Mr Wyatt said First Australians were entitled to be angry at the past and conceded the 1950s Australia he grew up in was not a place he liked.

“What I like now is the Australia that I see today,” he said.

“We’ve merged so many cultures and so many practices and different ways. What I like also is the way in which Indigenous culture and our history is being accepted readily into the Australian psyche.”

Part 2  : Reasons for changing the date

The debate about whether Australia Day should be changed to a date other than the 26th of January has in recent times been focussed on the offensiveness to many Indigenous Australians of using the commemoration of the establishment of an English colony in New South Wales as the foundation narrative of our national identity.

The objection articulated by advocates for change is that it ignores, marginalises or diminishes Indigenous history and culture, and fails to acknowledge past injustices (some still unresolved).

Personally I think the objection is valid, but I accept that there are differing views.

However, it is not necessary to even get into that argument to be persuaded conclusively that there should be a change of date. Let’s park the issues relating to Aboriginal people to one side and look at what the 26th of January represents and symbolises for Australians generally, and at how patently incompatible with our modern national identity it is as a selected national day.

The 26th of January marks the beginning of what sort of enterprise? What sort of uplifting and inspirational human endeavour?

The answer is that it was a penal settlement. A remote punishment farm to warehouse the overflow from Britain’s prisons. A place of brutality and despair conceived out of a desire to keep a problem out of sight and out of mind.

Modern Australia has its flaws. Some may want to argue the toss over Don Dale or Manus Island, but the reality is that we are a civilised, enlightened and fair people. We embrace those values in ourselves and in each other.

We all recognise how lucky we are to live in a tolerant society where diversity and difference are accepted and mateship and hard work are encouraged. We cherish our autonomy and freedom. A national day should resonate with and reflect those values.

The way it can do that is by reminding us of something in our past which either brought out the best in our national character, or else represented a step along the path to our unique Australian identity.

Potential examples are many, but might include these: Kokoda; the first Snowy River hydro scheme (with its harnessing of migrant workers from all over Europe coming to seek a better life after the second world war); the abolition of the white Australia policy in 1966; the passage of the Australia Act in 1986 (when Australia’s court system finally became fully independent).

One thing I know for sure is that when we look into history’s mirror for some event or occasion that allows us to see ourselves as we aspire to be, the last and most alien screen we would contemplate downloading and sharing as emblematic of ourselves as Australians would be Sydney Cove in 1788.

You just have to pause and think about it for a moment to be able to reject the concept as ludicrous. And yet that is the status quo that has become entrenched in our national calendar, through a process which has been more recent and less considered than most would be aware of.

In my view it is a matter of historical logic that Australia’s national day cannot be one which commemorates something which happened before Australia itself was created. That happened in 1901 when the various colonies joined together in a single federation in which each of them was transformed into an entity called a “state”.

The new Australian states were modelling themselves on the American colonies which had joined together to become the United States of America.

Many of those colonies already had a long prior history since they had been established by European settlers and in most cases they were much prouder of their origins than those new Australian states which had started off as penal settlements.

But if anyone, then or since, had proposed that the national day for the USA should be some day commemorating the early history of some individual colony, they would have been howled down by Americans.

The American national day celebrates the independence of the unified whole, not a way-station in the history of a pre-independence colony. It should be the same with us.

If any recent event should have served to underscore the lack of fit between the date on which our national day is currently celebrated and our contemporary political reality it is the disqualifying of Federal Parliamentarians who have belatedly discovered that they are British citizens.

Just think about that for a moment. The colony of New South Wales was established on behalf of the British Crown.

Then when the country called Australia was created in 1901, its people were classed as British subjects. Stand-alone citizenship came later and things have been slowly and fundamentally changing. In 2018 Britain is a foreign country and if you are a citizen of that country you are excluded from being elected to our Australian parliament.

That is because it is recognised that there are conflicting interests and allegiances.

How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country? Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation.

Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day.

Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Part 3 : It is that time of the year again when opinions are offered about the suitability of 26 January as our national day. Linda Burney MP

There are some who oppose it and some who support it.

We appear to be at an impasse on this.

But I believe we are mature enough as a nation to face a proper discussion about it.

The National Australia Day Council recognises this discussion has become a big part of the day and it is encouraging Australians to ‘reflect, respect, celebrate’ on 26 January.

  • Reflect on ‘what it means to be Australian’;
  • Respect ‘differing views’ on Australia Day; and
  • Celebrate ‘contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history’.

But it is important for all of us engaged in this debate to understand the challenges and opportunities.

On the one hand – right or wrong – is that many Australians are simply unaware of the historical and political context of the date.

On the other, if we understand the history of Australia Day we can understand why it is such a painful day for Indigenous Australians – this is the notion of ‘truth-telling’.

Australia Day means many things.

It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at what became known as Sydney Cove.

And yet the date and name of Australia Day itself was only relatively recently settled – at one point, it was set in July.

It is a day to celebrate our achievements and those who have contributed to our country.

For some, it is simply a public holiday to rest and relax with friends and family.

I represent the electorate of Barton. It is one of the most multicultural electorates in the nation with many residents from migrant backgrounds.

And while many of them tell me that they understand why 26 January is a complex day, it is also a day for them to reflect on how grateful for the life they have been able to build for themselves and their family here in Australia.

For others – especially for our retail and hospitality workers – it can be a day to earn penalty rates and take home a bit of extra pay to meet bills and other expenses.

But it needs to be understood that, for First Nations people like me, 26 January is a reminder, not only of the dispossession and injustice, but also our strength and survival as a people and as a culture.

Surely it is possible for us to learn, not only about the view from the boats that arrived, but the view from those on shore whose way of life changed forever.

The opportunity for proponents of changing the date is in understanding different perspectives – not condemning people for not being aware of the discussion, or for not picking a side.

Change and progress means bringing people with you.

It is possible to enjoy January 26 – to celebrate our country, and our many achievements – but it is equally important to reflect on our difficult and painful past.

While the dispossession and separation of First Nations families first occurred many years ago – it continues in different shapes and forms today.

The impact – through intergenerational trauma – can be seen and felt to this day.

We can see this in the disparity in quality of life outcomes between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

If you would like to spend Australia Day as a day of reflection as well as a day of celebration, there are many ways to do this. They do not conflict.

Why not start your Australia Day with the Wugulora Morning Ceremony at Barangaroo? You can also head over to the Yabun Festival – a wonderful festival embracing of all and celebrating survival – at Victoria Park in Camperdown which begins later in the morning for some great performances, food and other activities.

As for me, I will begin the day by attending a citizenship ceremony hosted by Bayside Council; followed by an Australia Day event at the Marrickville Library; and of course wrapping things up at Yabun.

By all means, celebrate Australia Day, but let’s use it as a day of reflection as well.

This opinion piece was originally published in the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times on Sunday, 26 January 2020

LINDA BURNEY

 

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