Always Was and Always Will Be
Australian Childhood Foundation supports the need for meaningful change and believes that such change is long overdue. The ongoing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults in our child protection and justice systems has not changed despite many inquiries, reviews and commitments over many years to address these issues. We cannot claim to be ignorant of the truth of the past and the current experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They have told their stories time and time again in the hope that accounts of their own lived experience and those of their ancestors will prompt us to act to address these injustices and give full effect to the principle of self-determination.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for truth and treaty.
The Foundation supports these critical processes.
We often reflect as an organisation what meaning is given to important historical dates, such as the 26th of January. This year, our team in the Northern Territory offer their insights about the day and how they approach Australia Day. It is our hope that in sharing their reflections that we pause as a community to consider its implications.
“…Australia Day is a tricky day for me. I feel so strongly through my heritage about what Australia meant for my family. It was a place of punishment, a place of despair, and a place that morphed into opportunity. It is a place of devastation and heartbreak, a place my family fought for and died for. A place that intrinsically tied my Scottish War heritage and Irish larrikinism to my Greek, Italian, Pilipino, Sri Lankan and Aboriginal family. I was born in the NT and have lived and worked alongside inspirational First Nations people and have seen the devastation that continues from colonisation. For me celebrating Australia Day without recognising, teaching and understanding what these impacts are, and how they continually are felt in real time is continuing the harm. On the other side of the coin, I see many First Nations families, many of whom I am related to, continue to show that Australia can provide opportunity in despair, connection and support in hard times, and a willingness to continue to provide a generosity of spirit towards others who show none of these traits themselves…”
“…I am lucky to spend my days in the Northern Territory outback, to learn and grow with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people I have developed relationships with through my work at Australian Childhood Foundation and my personal life. January 26th is a day that represents the continued degradation, and dismissal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and language. This day does nothing to showcase or uplift the strength of these people. I am in awe of the resilience I get to witness every day…?
“…January 26 to me is an important moment to stop and listen. I often find myself thinking a lot about the meaning of being a member of a nation and community that has been built on destruction of its First Peoples. Working in Darwin, and particularly in the Youth (in)justice system, we see evidence of ongoing colonialism every day. I ask myself, how can I use this day to commit myself to decolonising practice in my work and personal life, and lifelong learning and listening to our Aboriginal leaders?…”
“…I think it is a sad reflection of this country’s history that we celebrate a day that has caused much harm and grief for its First Nations people. I think the words of my 7-year-old great niece sum it up nicely when she asked last year on January 26th “why are people celebrating when it’s a sad day?” This also gives me hope that more generations are being educated around the true history of this date and its significance, so that in the future we may be able to action change…”
“…January 26th is an unfortunate, but amendable, date of ‘National Disgrace’. This day truly saddens my heart to no end after the result of the referendum vote in 2023. To be reminded that our people have ‘No Voice’, therefore, resulting in ‘No Truth Telling’! However, waving an Australian flag around, putting sausages on the barbie, beers in the esky, thongs, a singlet and slang are to be celebrated?
As the oldest living culture known to mankind which continues today, you would think we would be on the world stage and celebrated for welcoming other cultures. Importantly, we should be recognised and treated like the Custodians of this Country. It is a day of mourning, it is 2024 and our people still living under ‘tin humpies’ with no running water, starvation, and health statistics that are devastating.
This is notably a day when my stomach churns and I experience major discomfort. I guess my above statement really displays my confusion as to why we are celebrating massacres, rape, and displacement of our custodians of this nation. Despite such mistreatment past and present, we are the most resilient people I know and proud of it….”
“…Every year when January rolls around and I start seeing these posts it highlights that we are still missing the point. It’s not about a debate or an argument, it’s not about the precise historical accuracy of what did or didn’t happen, specifically on that date. It’s about the pain and loss that January 26th represents to so many people. The longer we dig our heels in and claim our trivial right to celebrate on January 26th, the longer we demonstrate that the rights and experiences of the traditional owners of this land aren’t worth our minor inconvenience.
We need to change that story, because everyone deserves to live in a world where they are valued. It has been the greatest privilege of my life to work alongside the Traditional Owners in East Arnhem land. To be mentored and welcomed by people who have shared with me their stories and their culture. So, January 26th to me is also a reminder of the incredible strength and resolve of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who continue to fight for their voices to be heard and honoured….”
“…For me, January 26th is not a day to be celebrated. It feels jarring, disrespectful and irreverent to celebrate Australia on a day that holds so much grief and sorrow for its First People’s. If anything, it is a day of mourning and acknowledgement of the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land. However, I also feel optimistic about the growing movement across the country to recognise ‘Australia Day’ for what it is – Survival/Invasion Day….”
“…The continued celebration of Australia Day is a true disgrace of our nation. It is shameful that as a country, we seem to reject the opportunity to support and celebrate First Nations people and their culture and instead actively attack them by celebrating a day that literally signifies death and the massacre of thousands of Aboriginal lives by white hands. Australia has a deplorable history regarding its treatment of our First Nations people, and I can only hope a day that highlights this will be abolished and replaced with truth telling and mourning. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land….”
“…Australia Day for me represents the day of colonisation where the British came and started a brutal and genocidal process of taking land off the first peoples of Australia. This left lots of families and children disconnected from their way of life, their foundations, and their happiness. It’s a day of reflection and thinking about how we can do better in the future to support First Nations peoples and listen to them, and action what they want for their country. It’s a solemn reminder of Australia’s dark history….”
“…My journey with Australia Day: During my 20’s I enjoyed the Australia Day public holiday with little thought. It was a day off, a chance to have a BBQ and beer with mates. In my 30’s I became more aware that this date represented many different things for different people. The terms Survival Day and Invasion Day started to have more meaning. Then I moved to the centre of Australia. Our first Australia Day in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) had us at Bunnings where they were giving away free Australian flags. My young sons thought this was great, and to my horror proceeded to wave them out the window at people on the way home. I felt shame that people thought we were celebrating this day that represents the colonisation of Australia with devastating and ongoing impacts. I continue to feel a sense of shame and embarrassment for this country. For me it is now a day of reflection. A day I force myself to face Australia’s history of massacres, of relocation, of loss, of abuse. But also, to feel the amazing force of cultural strength, of connection, of tradition, of laughter and love that I am privileged to experience living in the heart of this country….”