Australia Day, 26th of January. Historically marks a very sad day, also referred to as invasion day. Today, I believe it is an inclusion day, where we all celebrate our culture and unite to celebrate this nation, we all love.
26th of January marks the arrival of Captain James Cook’s First Fleet in Botany Bay, Sydney, in 1788. The fleet of 11 ships left Portsmouth in 1787 carrying more than 1480 men, women and children. They arrived on the 24th of January 1788, to what is now known as La Perouse. The area had been inhabited by the Eora People for 40,000 years. A standoff followed and on the 26th of January 1788 a British colony was established in Phillip Bay, with a simple ceremony. Australia, as we know it, was born.
But Australia already existed for many years. Indigenous Nations lived here for thousands of years. So, for them this was not a happy day to remember, it was invasion day, that was followed by years of wrong doing, death, discrimination and the infamous Stolen Generations, where Christian Associations would take Indigenous babies from their mothers.
Because of the very sad events that followed the arrival of Captain Cook into Australia, celebrating Australia’s national day on the 26th of January has always been a motive for controversy, it still is.
We cannot deny our history, and we cannot deny that this was a day that caused a lot of pain for a big segment of our population. But over recent years, there has been talks and efforts to change things. Unfortunately, we cannot undo all these years of wrong doing, nor we can bring back those who were killed, but we can make amends and became a better nation.
The Apology Speech
On the 13th of February 2008, the then Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, delivered its “Apology Speech”. In his speech, Kevin Rudd said it was time to move forward from the wrongs of the past. He apologised for the mistreatment of our Indigenous and Torrens Strait Islanders, specially those of the Stolen Generations, he apologised for laws and policies approved by successive past governments that cause so much pain to our first Australians. He finished by saying he hoped we could heal and unite and end the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Still a lot of work to do
The apology speech was a positive step towards reconciliation and healing, but there is still a lot to be done for that healing to be complete. We need to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, we need to be all treated equally, we need to give all the same opportunities.
Australia Day today
For me, Australia Day today is a day to celebrate our culture, a day of Inclusion where we all share our views and our dreams. I believe Australia Day is a day where we can all come together and celebrate the great nation we are today, never forgetting our past, but always focusing in our future and what we can do to improve and become even better than we are today.
Happy Australia Day.