As with every other country in the world, Australia celebrates one day a year which is recognised to be its official national day and on 26th January Australia Day is celebrated. The date marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and in present-day Australia community and family events are held to reflect and celebrate the diverse society and landscape of the nation, official community awards are held and new members of the Australian community are welcomed with citizenship ceremonies all over the country.
In thread with Reconcilliation WA’s encouragement to celebrate 26th January recognising the special place of the Australian First People, we wish to encourage people and organisations to be sensitive to the feelings of people who see the day as one of mourning; and to see the day as an opportunity to promote understanding, respect and reconciliation for all Australians, no matter where or when your Australian story began. Close to one third of Australia’s population was born overseas, and it is important that we educate ourselves and get to know about Australia’s history and culture. It is with knowledge that we can understand, include and prevent future wrongdoings.
There are some simple ways to mark 26 January respectfully and acknowledge members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and we encourage you to consider the following ideas:
- Talk with your local First Peoples’ community members to inform yourself of their views on the date. This will help you develop a respectful approach
- Share your new knowledge and have respectful conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours about what you’ve learned and the different perspective
- Invite Elders to play a special role in any Australia Day events you are organising, including conducting a ‘Welcome to Country’. Please understand and respect their feelings if they do not wish to take part and be prepared to respectfully hear their story of what this day represents for them
- Suggest guest speakers acknowledge that, while First Peoples have great pride in their heritage, Australia Day may remind them of past loss, and impact; and these feelings are also a legitimate part of our national day
- Acknowledge local Aboriginal community and the honoured place of the First Peoples in event programs and / or flyers
- Incorporate into your event something which acknowledges past injustices in our nation’s history
- Consider holding a moment of silence at the start of formal celebrations to reflect on our nation’s history
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