Australia Day means a lot of things for different people. For some, January the 26th marks a day of celebration. It’s a day where Australians celebrate their country by hosting parties, going down to the beach, getting drunk, or having a barbecue. But to indigenous Australians, the date marks something else: Invasion Day.
On January the 26th in 1788, British ships arrived and invaded Australia. The events that followed were murder, rape, the abduction of children, and years of inequality that to this day haven’t been resolved. To many Aboriginals, Australia day marks the day their people had their land stolen from them and to hold celebrations on such a day is insensitive. It’s a day of sadness and loss, yet it’s still a day that millions celebrate.
However, during the celebrations thousands took to the streets across the country in a protest called #ChangeTheDate, requesting the date of Australia Day to be moved so it can be a day that’s more inclusive to Aboriginals. During these protests, an Australian flag was lit on fire, causing the protests to grow more violent with police retaliation.
Ken Canning from the Indigenous Social Justice Association made a speech to the crowds during the event when talking about others who celebrated on the day. “That is not something to celebrate,” he said. “That is not a day to throw a shrimp on the barbie. That is not a day to go out and get blind drunk and start throwing up all over the footpath… It was an invasion. And it’s still going on today.”
Others, including celebrities, took to Twitter to voice their agreement in the date being changed.
— Ryan Griffen (@RyanJGriffen) January 25, 2017
I love you #Melbourne
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) January 26, 2017
— Maia Mitchell (@MaiaMitchell) January 26, 2017
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce ridiculed those protesting in an interview where he said, “This is Australia Day, and if you don’t like it, I don’t know mate, go to work. Do something else.” This statement comes despite the fact that Australia day is a public holiday. Continuing on, he voiced his outrage by saying “I’m just sick of these people who every time they want to make us feel guilty about it. They don’t like Christmas, they don’t like Australia Day, they’re just miserable … and I wish they’d crawl under a rock and hide for a little bit.”
Aboriginal people face 10 years less in life expectancy compared with other Australians and make up 27% of the prison population despite being just 3% of the country’s overall population. While some love the celebration of Australia Day, we should all consider the concerns and feelings of others when it comes to this holiday.