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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

How would you feel?

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Honestly Alan Hunter and Paul Spooner – with regard to your proclamations in The Echo on January 23, how would you feel if the country of your ancestors for thousands and thousands of years was overtaken by the hordes from over the ocean, if all your hunting and fishing and agricultural sites were denied you, if your children were taken away, the speaking of your languages forbidden, if you and yours were looked down on and incarcerated and treated unjustly at every turn year after year, decade after decade?

How would you feel if the colonisers decided to celebrate their great good fortune at living on this stolen country on the very day that you regard as Invasion Day? The day that the rich life you had enjoyed with your tribe and your family began to unravel, with shootings, poisonings, diseased blankets distributed to your fellow countrymen and women, and a score of other atrocities? How would you feel?

All people of non-Aboriginal descent now live on stolen country, regardless of the fact that we ourselves didn’t steal it, still we benefit from that dispossession. Surely it’s easy to acknowledge that the least we could do is to be compassionate and gracious enough to consider the deep heartache and humiliation of Aboriginal and Torres

Strait Islander Peoples, instead of hammering home to them every January 26 – Invasion Day, that we’re delighted to be able to celebrate our great good fortune on this particular date?

And as for “just how divisive a separate Australia Day celebration on January 25 is for the community” (with regard to Australia Day Awards), on Awards Night one of the awards recipients who identified herself as a descendant of the Pitjantjatjara People, publicly expressed her thanks to Simon Richardson for having the sensitivity to move the ceremony from Jan 26 to Jan 25.

This is NOT a political distraction. It is NOT an ‘empty tokenistic Greens party push’. It is a human expression of compassion for the pain and heart-break of others, the original Australians, be they a minority or not.

And regards ‘drawing attention to the impact that settlement has had on our indigenous people is very divisive and utterly unnecessary as it has long since (???) become a day on which WE ALL celebrate a country coming of age …’ This date NEEDS to have attention drawn to it as Invasion/Survival Day. This is how we can fully address our history – a day of mourning for our indigenous peoples – and with a degree of compassion and understanding and respect  – move forward together with clear hearts and minds.

As for a date for Australia Day, my vision is a timeline – January 26 is Invasion/Survival Day, an appropriate date during the April school holidays for Australia Day, Sorry Day May 26, Reconciliation Week May 27 through till June 3 (Eddie Mabo Day) and then NAIDOC celebrations in July. Sounds good to me.

Bronwyn Sindel

Mullumbimby

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1 COMMENT

  1. If as you state all people of non-aboriginal decent now live on stolen country then that includes most of if not all aboriginal people in NSW. After more than a century of being made by racism to feel ashamed of – , and in many cases feeling a need to hide – ignore their aboriginal heritage, there are now people encouraging anyone – indigenous and non-indigenous – to try and forget their colonial British ancestry. Pretending that aboriginal people do not have British ancestry when most, at least in NSW do; associating wrongs committed in the 20th century with the early settlement period; trying to associate current inter-generational poverty among some indigenous people with dispossession ; suggesting that colonisers broadly raped, poisoned and shot aboriginals when over the 19c the rate of violence and crime among both the settler and aboriginal communities fell to very low levels: these are all the result of a limited , very selective and ahistoric reading of Australian history.

    But the worst of the efforts of those trying to get people to forget our early settlement by changing or renaming the date is that that ignores its importance as the date of our first new migrants, the introduction of British law and legal systems , and the modern capital economy. None would suggest that legal and economic framework is perfect and we know at times it treated some aboriginals poorly, but we all have to participate in to keep our families safe and fed and housed in comfort. How difficult is it for indigenous parents and elders to get their kids to respect the law, to get work and stay safe when there are people suggestion the legal and economic framework introduced in January 1788 does not belong to them, and in an a way that unconsciously assumes their aboriginal and settler ancestors were active not participants in the development of colonial Australia. We can only ensure all Australians feel part of this country and committed to keeping its laws and participating fully in our society by ensuring that indigenous people are included in the day that belongs to us all and we conduct it in the sensitive way urged by the Australia Day Council.

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