Jan 26 in Australia

Jan 26, 2021

233 years ago, on this day, the Jan 26, the first fleet full of British convicts arrived in Australian shores. Further settlers continued to join, crown colonies established and eventually formed the federation, now called as Australia. As often the case with any colonisations, the rich and 65000 years long indigenous nations, their languages, culture and population decimated, mass genocide perpetrated and whatever the population left been cornered and suppressed.
 
The open and direct killings continued all the way to 1920s too. Then it has been a systemic but not so direct actions. For example in 1970s many indigenous workers were paid in tobacco. You read it right. A bunch of tobacco was their salary. Needless to say how it would lead to addiction and slow social disintegration. Many of us, especially migrants like me often turned blind eye on this dark history and never interested in what happened (or happening) to the country we inhabited. Back then we were colonised in our home country, we carried our colonial mindset all the way to this land and finding our new masters here, not realising we too become colonialists in the process, joining hands with the 'whitfellas'.
 
Australia may now be a prosperous and (so called) multi cultural society. It has all the reasons to celebrate the life here compared to most places in the world. But that day should not be the day which started all the atrocities to the indigenous communities. We need to find a day which is inclusive to all the communities, especially to indigenous people. Being the traditional owners of this land, they should have the say in this choice. This is not a banana republic like Sri Lanka or USA. In Sri Lanka, the majority community don’t even let the minority communities to sing the national anthem in their own indigenous language Tamil (although the country’s constitution entitles that right).In Australia, people cherished and elated the moment when their anthem was sung in an indigenous language other day.

Australia is and can be better, and more importantly it is thriving to be better. The debates continue. It is continuously changing the lyrics of the national anthem to be more inclusive. So I have no doubt that it will change the date as well. It will have to recognise and negotiate a treaty with indigenous people for them to regain more power and have a say in their affairs. That will happen one day. Till then the fight will continue.

Hope we will find a day to celebrate Australia one day asap. For now, let’s use Jan 26 to create more awareness about this.

Have a safe day.

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