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March 5, 2021

Australia Day or Survival Day: what’s on

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Members of Byron’s Arakwal people of the Bundjalung nation celebrating Survival Day at Main Beach, January 26 in 2015. Photo Tree Faerie

Aslan Shand

Invasion Day, Sorry Day, Survival Day, Australia Day – 26 January is the day that celebrates the arrival of the First Fleet on the shores of Australia, not the day Australia came into being. 26 January is also the date of the 1808 rum rebellion, when the officers of the NSW Corps marched to Government House in Sydney, arrested Governor Bligh, and placed the colony under military rule for two years.

The day that Australia first came into being was when the federation of the colonies was proclaimed on 1 January 1901 in Centennial Park in Sydney. This officially brought together the six separate self-governing British colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia to form what we today call Australia. It may surprise some people that both Fiji and New Zealand were originally being considered as part of the federation, but they decided to opt out.

‘Celebrating the anniversary of the British empire’s invasion of Australia is for many people both cruel and ironic,’ said Ballina MP Tamara Smith.

‘Cruel because it is the date that the fiction of terra nullius was written into our history books and inscribed upon the lives of Aboriginal people

‘Far from “land belonging to no one” just under 1 million Aboriginal people lived, loved and called Australia home in 1788. It is an ironic celebration because it only speaks to some Australians.’

Change the date

‘There is an injustice that needs to be fixed. And that can be started by changing the date,’ said local Arakwal representative Delta Kay.

‘Simon Richardson was a brave man when he stirred the pot,’ she said, referring to the Byron Shire mayor’s move to change Australia Day ceremonies in Byron Shire.

‘It was a shame he didn’t bring the community with him or consult the Arakwal but I like the bold move. He was very brave and I am happy the debate is out there. People are actually talking and debating it.’

Following threats from the Aussie PM ScoMo, Byron Shire backed down and will continue to hold Australia Day citizenship ceremonies on 26 January, but the question continues to be raised: why do we celebrate Australia Day on a day that has nothing to do with the formation of Australia from those six independent states?

‘The date for Australia Day has changed several times but conservative politicians would have us believe it is unmoveable and that to even have the conversation about what rings true for all who live and love here is un-Australian,’ points out Ms Smith.

‘Blackmailing councils and mayors who want to hold citizenship ceremonies on a day that isn’t painful and insensitive flat lines any chance of a national debate on the things that matter to us all.

‘We need a Treaty for Aboriginal people and self-determination now and changing the date is the first step.’

Events around the region


At the Nimbin Bush Theatre they are acknowledging the amazing survival of the oldest race on Earth. A smoking ceremony at 12pm will start the afternoon along with welcome to country followed by stories and dancing. At 1pm the rootsy blues of Craig Atkins will take to the stage, the one-man band that brings together acoustic guitars, lap slide, didgeridoos, harmonica, foot percussion, and loop and effect pedals.

Melanie Thomas is Lismore’s Australia Day ambassador. Photo supplied.


Mayor Isaac Smith will also host the annual Australia Day awards and a citizenship ceremony will take place at Lismore City Hall welcoming people from more than 20 countries. This will also include a smoking ceremony by Gilbert Laurie and welcome to country by Ros Sten.

This year’s Australia Day awards will be presented by Lismore’s 2019 Australia Day ambassador Mel Thomas. Mel is a black-belt martial artist, public speaker, published writer, and advocate for breaking the cycle of violence against women and children across Australia.

Matthew Burke will be Ballina Shire’s 2019 Australia Day special guest. Photo supplied.

Ballina/ Lennox

Ballina Shire Council is hosting their annual Australia Day celebration at the Lennox Community Centre.

Matthew Burke will be Ballina Shire’s 2019 Australia Day special guest. Matthew is one of Australian rugby’s most celebrated backs, having played seven sensational seasons with the Wallabies.

The Australia Day ceremony will commence at 9am on Saturday in the Lennox Community Centre. Matthew will be providing a special address as part of the ceremony as well as assisting with the Australia Day awards and the citizenship ceremony.

Byron Shire

Byron Shire Council will be celebrating the contribution and achievements of local residents at the Australia Day awards presentation, which will be held at 5.30pm on Friday 25 January at the Cavanbah Centre at Byron Bay.

Byron Shire’s Australia Day Ambassador for 2019 is Joel Pilgrim, an occupational therapist who is well known for his work in mental health.  He is the founder and CEO of the Waves of Wellness Foundation, which uses surf-based therapy intervention to help people improve their mental health.


On January 26 community breakfasts will be taking place at Bangalow RSL Hall from 8 till 11am with a sausage sizzle and entertainment. Breakfast in Banner Park, Brunswick Heads, is between 7.30 and 10am with Aussie flags and entertainment, while the Byron Bay breakfast will be from 7.30 till 11am next to the surf club.

Survival Day: Byron

The Sisters of Reconciliation will be celebrating the survival of Indigenous culture at Main Beach Park from 11am till 3pm and are inviting everyone to join them with a picnic to see some dancing and find out more about Indigenous culture.

There will be music, dancing, and kids’ activities with Uncle Pete Jungalla and Uncle Magpie at 1pm telling their story and dancing while Stick and Move Wiradjuri Rappers and local DJ Jayo will be on from 2.15pm.

The Sisters of Reconciliation will also take the opportunity to share the Makarrata statement that looks to reconciliation.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was released last May and puts forward the principle of a Makarrata commission that would oversee the process of making an agreement between the Australian government and Indigenous Australians.

Makarrata is the process of truth-telling and agreement-making and comes from the Yolngu people of northeast Arnhem Land. It is a process of conflict resolution, peace making, and justice.

Ocean Shores

From 3 till 5pm you can discover the giant lamington or become a mullet-throwing champion at Ocean Shores Public School while enjoying a classic Aussie barbecue.

Tweed Shire

The official Australia Day ceremony will be held this Saturday at Murwillumbah Civic Centre from 11am, featuring a citizenship ceremony and the presentation of the Tweed Shire Australia Day awards.

Council has also sponsored a number of community events across the Tweed, including:


The free community breakfast starts at 8am at Brian Breckenridge Sportsfield. There’s also free music and children’s activities. The event will also feature local Australia Day awards, morning tea (bring an Australian cake or treat to share), tug of war and a local cricket challenge.


Go along to Kingscliff Lions Club’s hot Aussie breakfast from 7am to 9.30am in Rowan Robinson Park. Enjoy Aussie music, an egg and spoon race, gumboot throwing, tug of war and more.


Australia Day fun in Tyalgum starts at 9am, with market stalls and live music throughout the day. Local awards will be presented at the Tyalgum Hall. Tradition continues with the ‘Australia vs India’ cricket match.


There will be plenty of family fun on Australia Day at the Burringbar Sports Club and grounds. It will be a fun family day of traditional games and a giant waterslide to keep cool.

Crabbes Creek

Breakfast from 8am at Crabbes Creek Hall. There will be local awards, music and Aussie games for the whole family.

Cabarita/ Pottsville

Go along to Lions Park adjacent to Norries Headland from 9.30am to 1pm for Australia Day Awards, a free sausage sizzle and ‘Australia’s biggest barbecue’ supporting childhood cancer research.

For more details see Tweed Shire Council website.

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  1. Get over yourselves and stop being nuisances. 6 councils across Australia are not happy with the date, while over 500 are perfectly happy. That says it all, get on the page or just quietly sulk, but do it quietly.

  2. Hey Gordy,

    Have you and the majority of those White people in those 500 councils paid the rent yet???? if not go home to your sad lands… and take your pollution with ya, your cars, houses, rubbish etc, all that capitalism rubbish that is causing global warming not only here, but world wide. we will have our land back and you white mob can have your pollution. take it with yas when you mob doggy paddle all the way home…

    Gorn git

  3. 26th January is also Republic Day in India which is something to celebrate. Australia Day on 26th January is a confected birthday that came about from The Bicentenial. It’s Time, to coin the phrase from The Great Man, to change the date to 1st January, the day of Federation. Leave 26th for The First Nations People to observe as Invasion Day / Survival Day.

  4. I grew up in New Zealand, on land stolen from the indigenous owners, now I live in Australia on stolen land, in both places land taken by killing the original inhabitants. Change the date!

  5. January 26th 1788 is the day we celebrate the arrival of the first boat people, the convicts to the penal colony hell hole of NSW in New Holland. Do you really want to celebrate that with the wretched conniving scheming Morrison and his soon to be disposed of failed Govt.
    The present Australia day is an insult to real Australians, it is nothing but a British celebration and has been manipulated by a monarchist charlatan Howard, Abbott cabal, in their attempts to keep Australia British.
    Go and wave your imported Chinese made flags, with the British Union Jack “Butchers Apron” flag on it, the “England at night flag” they call the Australian flag. The rest of us will pass.
    Historically, Australia day can only ever be January 1st 1901, when the Australian commonwealth was proclaimed, but the monarchist don’t want us to celebrate a real Australia day, they want to keep Australia British.
    Think about it and be Australian, wake up, your being conned.

  6. Anniversaries are almost universally celebrated on the date of the occurrence: Birthdays on the date-of-birth, Wedding Anniversaries on the date-of-marriage.
    Why is the birth of the Commonwealth of Australia an exception? It’s “birthday” is January 1st.
    So it happens to be New Years Day also, so what ? Just make it a double celebration day!
    If there has to be a public holiday on January 26, then give it an accurate name such as:-
    ” Penal Colony Establishment Day”.

  7. Sorry Gordon and the millions of Gordons who think the day Cook planted a British flag in the sand is a day of universal celebration. It is not. As for only 6 councils changing the date. Mark these words. Most councils will have changed the date within 5 years. Why? Because Aussies might be slow on recognising injustice but in my lifetime once they do they are compassionate people. And the Gordons are the mob who should get over their obsession with a confected ‘celebration’ that millions cannot join in. Until there is a treaty “Always was, always will be, aboriginal land”.


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