As every other country in the world, Australia celebrates each year one day which is recognised to be its official national day. Australia Day is celebrated on 26th January. The date marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales. 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 presented and new members of the Australian community are welcomed with citizenship ceremonies all over the country.
However, there is a diversity of views surrounding 26th January. Some view the day as an opportunity to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ survival as the longest continuing culture on earth within the story of the modern Australian nation. For others, the date is not an occasion for celebration at all, but instead it marks the beginning of an unlawful invasion with a devastating impact still affecting our Indigenous communities.
In link with Reconciliation 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.
Australia Day 2023 is a time to recognise the resilience of all Australians and to focus on what we can achieve when we move forward as a community and a unified nation.
It is a time to reflect on the pivotal day in the history of our ancient continent and to acknowledge past wrongs while we show respect and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ survival, resilience and enduring culture.
It is a day to respect the deep connection to Country that First Nations people still feel to this day and to reflect on how we are all defined by the land on which we live, work and play, from the freshwater to the saltwater, the rainforest to the desert. And it is a day to celebrate being part of a proud, ancient, multicultural nation that values the contribution of each and every citizen, old and new.
There are some simple ways to mark 26th 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.
Consider holding a moment of silence at the start of formal celebrations to reflect on our nation’s history.
Let’s work together to ensure Australia Day is one of inclusion and unity for all Australians.
For more information about Australia Day 2023 and an introduction to how to celebrate it respectfully, please visit recwa.org.au
“Until we tell the truth, what really happened in this country, the word respect will always be in the distance. We need to listen to our Aboriginal people.”
– Uncle Noel Nannup. “Dr Noel Nannup discusses Reconciliation theme ‘Respect’, 2021”
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