When the good folks at Echonetdaily asked me to write something for January 26 I initially said no. Who needs another white person’s opinion on Australia Day/Invasion Day?
But I have been rightly reminded that it’s not just up to Indigenous people to bear the load of communicating the truth of our history and seeking justice around this day.
I have nothing to add to the deeply thought-provoking story of Eli Cook and his ancestors in this week’s Storylines. I do, however, want you to read it. To sit with it. To let it make you uncomfortable. And instead of letting that discomfort fade in your memory from January 27 onwards, I want you to do something about it.
What will you do to promote justice?
What is one thing you will do differently this year to promote justice and healing for First Peoples? Will you donate to support the families of those killed in custody, like David Dungay Jr?
Will you better inform yourself with a book like Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, which presents an astounding timeline of Indigenous culture, land management and enterprise that you were never taught in school?
Will you have an awkward but necessary conversation with your family or work colleagues about why you didn’t celebrate on January 26?
This year, I’ve committed to buying more birthday and Christmas gifts from Indigenous-run businesses.
White Australia’s black history
I encourage you to not only reflect on white Australia’s black history but act on it. Occasionally, I hear the argument that: ‘Colonisation and the stolen generations were awful, but I wasn’t alive then/I migrated here. Why is it on me to make amends?’
It is better to think in terms of responsibility, rather than fault. We Second Peoples have an advantage – in life expectancy, in education and healthcare outcomes, in our interactions with the police. That advantage exists because of the actions of those who came before in oppressing and discriminating against First Peoples.
We might not be to blame, but each of us has the power and responsibility to recognise the inequality and work to reverse it, by whatever means we have, whether large or small.
Without actively doing our bit to usher in justice for this land’s First Peoples, there can be no reconciliation and healing. We would be better off saving our empty words.
Philippa Clark is an Echo Publications intern who grew up on Bidjigal land and now lives on Wangal land.