Normally I agree with much of what Dick Smith says. But, this time round, I think he has been hanging around with too many pie in the sky, low fat angora rabbit milk latte sipping yuppies, whose heads are high up in the stratosphere. I am positive this lack of oxygen has given them a form of brain damage; damage which causes them to have no idea what the average Australian thinks.
He and his cronies, want to change the name of Australia day, to something else like fleet day, or change the date to another day. He and others like it promote the idea that the 26th of Jan, should be known as “Invasion day.” Ironically, my wife, who is indigenous, and her mum, who was part of the stolen generation, and who knows full well the horrors of that – say that our nation is called Australia, and therefore we should have a day called “Australia Day.”
The 26th of January marks the day that 11 ships called the first fleet arrived in what is known as Port Jackson, Sydney. Those ships contained 1’373 people, 754 of them were convicts: children, (11 who were born on the ships) women and men. While the majority of the convicts were English, there were a number of African, American and French convicts on board also. 46 convicts died on board the ships here. These convicts were ripped from their families for a number of spurious crimes. Sentenced here for a period of 7 or 14 years, some sentenced for a lifetime. The reality is, their sentence was a lifetime of being taken away from home and family. Overtime, many more convicts were to arrive on our shores. Their reality was that they were considered little more then slave labor. Their conditions harsh. Their lifestyle poor. They were considered non persona. They had no rights.
It’s important for us to remember this. It’s also important to remember that the government also considered the Aboriginal inhabitants as being non persona also. This lack of recognition continued till 1967 when their inclusion under the Australian Flora and Fauna Act was removed. Sadly, though, the Australian constitution still doesn’t include Indigenous people in its constituency and there is a rightful move to correct this imbalance.
The first fleet signifies a day when Aboriginals, English, Africans, French and Americans lost their home. Together, they become non personas as far as the law was concerned. We should acknowledge this fact. Much of the infrastructure that we take for granted was built through the shed blood, sweat and tears of slave labor. Shackles and chains were their norm. Both the convicts and the aboriginals lost their homes, lost their families and lost their land.
Fast forward to the now. There is a push to change the name, or change the date, or delete the day altogether; on the basis that it dishonors the original inhabitants of our land as it marks the day their land was invaded. However, as I have shown, its much more complicated then that.
Let us together acknowledge the fullness of the horrors of our beginnings. Let us together learn from the past. Bring justice and correct injustice in the now. And together, lets push forward and build towards the future. It’s very right and proper for us to celebrate Australia day, on the 26th of January. But, lets not celebrate the wrong – but instead, celebrate that we are moving on together, and together, move towards correcting the injustice of the now. As for the injustice of the past – forgiveness is key.