On the weekend I had a conversation with Sam Gollan, the talented Indigenous artist whose works we’ve been featuring at Y natural for the past six months. We were reflecting on the meaning this Australia Day celebration holds for Australians now, and what meaning it could hold in our future.
Australian people should have been taught how the settlers came to Australia and took over. We never hear about the cruel evil stuff they did to my ancestors. We as Aboriginals cannot celebrate a day that let to our people being slaughtered. We celebrate our own way by surviving that harsh day and doing what we must to keep our culture and heritage alive.
Her words have been running through my head ever since.
Now, with Australia Day just hours away, I just added one extra ‘view’ to this powerful speech by Stan Grant, in which he reflects on what sort of country we want Australia to be.
It’s impossible to hear his words and remain unmoved.
A people of law and lore… Of music and art and dance and politics.
My people were killed on those plains.
My people could be shot on sight.
People who made the first seafaring journey in the history of mankind, with a sixty thousand year history of occupying this land, were rounded up in a war of extermination because this was, in the eyes of the British, an empty land there for the taking [paraphrased].
The history of colonised Australia is only a couple of hundred years old, yet we acknowledge and understand so little of it. In the eyes of many of today’s Australians, the notion of terra nullius is not an historical error or inaccuracy that we now regret and reject. Our failure to educate Australians about our history – whether thinking in terms of a couple of centuries or sixty thousand years – could be demonstrated no more clearly than by Australia’s then- PM Tony Abbott (only 14 months ago) describing Australia as unsettled and ‘nothing but bush’ until British colonisation.
There’s something fundamentally wrong about celebrating an Australia in which an indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school, and can anticipate dying 10 years younger than a white child living nearby. This is an Australia in which most people don’t even know their history and are seemingly ok with shrugging off fundamental wrongs as a result of Indigenous people making a lifestyle choice. Something HAS to change.
Despite the injustices of which he’d just spoken, Stan Grant’s speech finished on a hopeful note:
One day I want to stand here and be able to say as proudly, and sing as loudly as anyone else in the room, ‘Australians ALL let us rejoice’.
Similarly, in my conversation with Sam, she spoke hopefully of uniting, showing honour and respect for Indigenous land and culture, and celebrating this country together, not separately as Aboriginal people or white people.
If you’re in Adelaide and you want the 26th to be more than an excuse for a day off, give it some REAL meaning by coming to Semaphore Beach on the 26th January from 12.30pm – 7.30pm. Learn more about the real Australian history and understand the rich and amazing culture of law and lore, of music and art and dance and politics…
It’s a start!
PS The picture above is of the sign we have up at Y natural acknowledging the traditional owners of this land.