The 26th of January

Australia Day ATSI artwork.jpg

Last year on Australia Day,  I was talking to my daughter about our plans for the day and we started to talk about Australia Day itself.  We chatted about how lucky we are to live in Australia and that this country is something to celebrate.  Knowing that she was somewhat aware of our history of colonisation and that she had an interest in Aboriginal history and culture, I mentioned that there has been talk about changing the date of Australia Day.  She wasn't too impressed with this idea as she thought it was going to change our particular plans for the day, so I thought of an analogy that may help her be more understanding and empathic.

I thought of her Paw Patrol toys which she loves so much - all the vehicles and different dog characters.  "Imagine if a child came to our house," I began, thinking on my feet and not really sure how this was going to play out.  "And they took away all of your Paw Patrol toys.  I see her eyes widen, horrified at even the thought of this. I continue, “Then later on someone says, ‘Hey, let's have a day to celebrate how much we love Paw Patrol!’  And of all the dates to choose for the celebration, they choose the same date as the day that child came to your house and stole all your Paw Patrol toys."  My daughter does not look impressed.

"Of course, you still love Paw Patrol, and you want to celebrate how great Paw Patrol is, but it doesn't feel right to celebrate it on a day that is sad day for you.  We could choose another day, right?"

"Yep," she says, appearing to understand this moral conundrum.

So why don't we change the date? And why am I sharing this clunky explanation I provided to my then four-year old with a year ago? Well, because it helped me to get to the core of my beliefs. And I believe this is a national conversation that we should be having right now. I just wasn’t quite sure how to put it all in words a year ago.

And it seems like the best and most respectful place to start is to listen to Indigenous voices. Tammy Solonec, a Nigena woman who is an Indigenous Rights Manager at Amnesty International says:

“Like other Australians, I enjoy a public holiday and like to celebrate. But as an Aboriginal person, 26 January is a painful and alienating day. It marks the start of the colonisation and the suffering of our people— it is no celebration for us. Let’s respect the survival and resilience of our Indigenous peoples and change the date so we can all celebrate Australia Day together.” (Source: www.amnesty.org.au)

For more from Tammy Solonec, please click the link here to one of her articles at Amnesty International.

And as it turns out, 26 January hasn’t always been the chosen day for our national celebration anyway.

(For more on this, please take a look at this article by Chloe Sargent on SBS.)

So maybe change need not be that scary after all?