Today, January 26th, is a day of competing narratives. Whatever your focus on this day, we urge all Australians to also take time to reflect on the perspective of others.
For many Indigenous Australians today is known as a Day of Mourning, Survival Day or Invasion Day. It commemorates the start of what many describe as a genocide against indigenous Australians. Our friends at IndigenousX have curated a collection of articles on the day from an Indigenous perspective.
This year it also marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the longest running political protest in the world. It came after a decade of badly needed progress then a major setback. The progress including the overwhelming approval of the 1967 referendum that changed the constitution so that Indigenous Australians could start to be counted as people by the national government. Prior to this the constitution had excluded them from the census and the Federal Parliaments law making powers were limited so that no law of the parliament would apply to Indigenous Australians (only state laws applied). The major setback, and immediate cause of the protest, was a decision of the Northern Territory Supreme Court which ruled against the Yolngu people in the Gove Land Rights case – the first litigation on native title in Australia. The case followed the non-implementation of the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee, itself triggered by the Yirrkala bark petitions of 1963 – the first traditional documents to be recognised by the Commonwealth Parliament and the first time Indigenous people were recognised under federal law.
Celebration of being Australian & Australian values
For many first generation Australians, those who immigrated here from overseas, it is the day they gained their citizenship and became Australian. Many new citizens will be created today in ceremonies around the country. It is also a day when the Australia Day Honours are announced. 1040 Australians have been awarded honours this year. It includes 58 Australians recognised for their contribution in support of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a day for focusing on Australian values and contributions to society.
We have in past years created and shared a collection of memes reflecting positive Australian values and opposition to expressions of negative values. These can be seen below, feel free to share them.
Origins, history, and the date
The history of January 26th starts with the arrival on this day of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove and Captain Arthur Phillip raising the Union Jack to signal the beginning of the colony of New South Wales. The creation of the colony, and all the harm that followed for Indigenous Australians, is why many referred to it as Invasion Day. In the 1930s a Victorian campaign began to promote the idea of celebrating a national Australia Day on the first Monday after January 26th, in order to create a long weekend. In 1988 that it was decided to hold the national day on January 26th and not on the following Monday, and it is from this time that Indigenous Australians started referring to it as Invasion Day. The permanent fixing of the day as a national day on January 26th wasn’t established until 1994. Support for changing the date of Australia Day has been growing with a national poll last year showing a majority how support a change. Importantly, support for a change is high among younger Australians with 65 per cent of those aged 18-24 and 71 per cent of those aged 25-29 in support.