Dear Aboriginal people,
I want to say my own “sorry” this Invasion Day.
I’m sorry that at this time each year the supermarkets and discount shops fill shelves with the “Australian flag” which has the flag of the nation who invaded this country on it but do not have a single Aboriginal flag.
I’m sorry that my schooling as a child didn’t teach enough about aboriginal history and emphasised that Australia started in 1788. 40,000 years of your history pre 1788 is often completely untold and your history since 1788 is often ignored.
I’m sorry that people say, “it’s in the past” because of course it isn’t. Although I can’t understand what you go through, I know that in the media in the past year we’ve seen blackface, abuse in Dondale, extremely racist cartoons published in national newspapers and racism in sport. Although we are beginning to become rightfully outraged about victims of violence, especially domestic violence, aboriginal victims are often ignored. I’m sorry that we continue to need organisations because Aboriginal people have a shorter life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality, poorer health (just to name a few shameful disadvantages.) And I have met some of the victims of the stolen generation who continue to live with the impact of what this country did to them. It is clear that it isn’t in the past.
I’m sorry that people say “it’s time to move on.” Have they moved on from the Anzacs? Have they moved on from the Bali Bombings? Remembrance Day? Black Saturday? Ash Wednesday? All things that we shouldn’t forget, don’t get me wrong. But you must certainly shouldn’t have to “move on” from your land being stolen, genocide and the centuries of repercussions that continued after that. We know these people would feel the same if “Modern Day Australia” was invaded and a day of celebration was forced upon them.
I’m sorry that people in this country cry, “why should I apologise or feel guilty for something I didn’t do?” I don’t understand why people spend more energy fighting against being sympathetic over being in solidarity. Forgive my simplistic analogy but when my child upsets another child in the playground I say “sorry” to that child and their parent despite me not actually being the perpetrator. Because I am part of the family. Because it is the decent thing to do. As an active citizen of this country (“the family”), that votes in elections, that pays taxes and that occasionally cheers for this country in international sports, I am utterly disgusted that we continue to discriminate against you and have a celebration on the 26th of January. I participate in a society where you do not have equality, I can’t help but feel guilty.
I’m sorry that people believe it is “Un-Australian” not to celebrate and that we should be unquestionably proud to be Australian. It is clear to me that not celebrating the 26th of January doesn’t mean people have to be disloyal, non-patriotic or generally ungrateful for living life in this country (although I also believe you don’t have to have these qualities at all to love this land.) I wish people realised that if anything it means that they care for all people here, they understand more about the history of this country and realise celebrating “Australia Day” on the 26th of January excludes you. What’s more, I realise many of you don’t even accept ‘Australia’ as this country’s name since it was stolen from you under the declaration of Australia as terra nullius so being called “Unaustralian” is offensive in more than one way. Even more ironic, I don’t think I have met anyone that loves and is more connected to this land than your people.
I’m sorry people use (often false) anecdotes to represent the entire Aboriginal community like, “I have a friend who is Aboriginal that celebrates ‘Australia Day.’” I see the pain many of you have each year on the 26th of January and anyone that bothers would realise this day has long been protested by you. Not to mention the vast amount of online articles I see aboriginal people write, how many outspoken aboriginal bloggers there are and aboriginal celebrities who have spoken out. I’m sorry that many people aren’t paying attention or bothering to find out how the majority of you feel.
I’m sorry some people exploit this country’s minorities and diversity in the name of “Australia Day” for their own agenda. Especially when I see how your community often stands in solidarity with minorities.
I’m sorry people prioritise their right to a public holiday, a BBQ and party over your pain and history. Solidarity really is the least people could do on this day; posting something on social media to create conversations and raise awareness, laying flowers on memorial sites, protesting along side you, or even writing a letters to MPs. It doesn’t take much, I wish people did more.
I’m sorry that so many who believe in Aboriginal rights are also complacent, quiet, and don’t actively fight for what they know is right. It seems that intellectually and emotionally many know this day is all sorts of wrong but it physically doesn’t impact on them so they don’t bother fighting for your rights.
I’m sorry that so many believe that changing the date is the solution to “Australia Day.” But with no treaty signed, with celebrations on land was was stolen from you, that you continue to face discrimination and racism and that the pain is still very present – I understand why you wouldn’t want to celebrate even on another day.
I’m sorry that I still make mistakes and still don’t know enough.
And finally, I’m sorry that this nation said “Sorry” and yet nothing much has changed. As we know, sorry is not in the word itself but in the actions that come after the word has been said.
INVASION DAY RALLIES 2017:
MPARNTWE (ALICE SPRINGS): https://www.facebook.com/events/1199049856882858/
BALLINA, NSW: https://www.facebook.com/events/235105183604169/?ti=icl
(Please let me know if you know of more locations.)
Also to keep in mind: