Survival Day/ Day of Mourning/ Australia Day

After struggling for so many years, we are going to continue to struggle, we must continue our struggle, till we win our objectives” – William Cooper

January 26th means different things to different people. For some, it is a day to celebrate the anniversary of the British’s arrival to the continent.  For many First Nation Peoples (and others) it is acknowledged as a Day of Mourning or Invasion or Survival Day.

drummond street services as a community-based organisation committed to promoting wellbeing for life, supports the current calls and efforts of First Nations people’s and their allies for change. If the intent of “Australia Day” is truly about celebrating our nation and what it means to be Australian, this includes reflecting on our past, present and our future, it no longer should be on a day steeped in harm and grief for the traditional owners and custodians of this land.

For many First Nations people “Australia Day” and the First Fleet’s arrival on January 26 is deeply painful. The framing of this day as the only day of historical value for the whole community to come together is not only harmful, but it also denies the reality of what this day in 1788 meant for the original custodians of this land;  the colonisation, dispossession and genocide of First Nation people.

This recognises the actions of William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man who later made Footscray his home. Mr. Cooper, Mr. Arthur Berdue, Ms. Margaret Tucker, and Cooper’s nephew, Nicholls Victorian representing the Australian Aborigines League along with William Ferguson from the Aborigines Progressive Association of New South Wales enacted plans to protest Australia Day with public “commemorate(ions) of the sesquicentenary of the European invasion of Australia”. Mr. Cooper and the work of these Elders has inspired generations of activists seeking justice for First Nations People (See more information here and here).

Instead of calling First Nation people divisive for wanting change we should do something else. We can stop, listen and consider:

  • Why is Australia the only Commonwealth country to not have a treaty with its indigenous peoples?
  • Is the current way to acknowledge the Australian nation is inclusive?
  • Does it accurately acknowledge the histories and experiences of First Nation peoples?
  • Can we celebrate when many First Nation peoples feel there is little to celebrate?

We should acknowledge that for over 230 years the First Nation people survive despite:

  • Remaining the most incarcerated people in the world
  • Continued disproportionate number of deaths in custody
  • Higher rates of children removed from their families and communities than occurred during the Stolen Generation
  • Sustained forcible dispossession of from their land due to forced closures.
  • Higher rates of suicide, mental illness etc.

In 2017 the Uluru Statement from the Heart was made after extensive consultations with First Nations people across Australia. It is time to listen, to hear and to act on what First Nations people are asking. There needs to be wide community support efforts for Treaties (Victorian and nationally) in line with the Makarrata (Yolngu for ‘coming together after a struggle’ it is about conflict resolution, peacemaking and justice).

Let’s support First Nations people’s efforts for representative body that constitutes an Indigenous “Voice to Parliament” at the Federal level. The Referendum Council sought this in late 2017 (see here) .This is vital to their and our Nation’s health, wellbeing, and sovereignty and healing. This is what a ‘fair go’ and ‘advancement’ and wellbeing really means. We know this in our work with individuals, young people, children, families and communities, of the importance of addressing the social determinants of health and wellbeing.  This includes actions at all levels that addresses the fair and equitable access to resources, empowerment, agency and choices, as well as speaking out against racism and discrimination.

Australia as nation could make greater efforts as part of powerful, symbolic and structural steps towards transforming our relationships. Building on formal and everyday recognition and acknowledgment of the historical harms perpetrated and that continue today.

From little things big things grow. There are practical actions that can be done to demonstrate our support and solidarity with First Nations people – including at this time, including:

  • Supporting preparations for the Invasion Day protest by attending activities, or attending fundraising performances across Melbourne (see here)
  • Making a financial contribution and/or provide financial resources for First Nation people’s own efforts for sovereignty and resistance
  • Attending the Invasion Day/Day of Mourning protest organised by Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)  State Parliament steps, Spring St, Naarm-Melbourne at 11 am (see more here)
  • Participate in the Balit Narrun Festival in Treasury Gardens after the march
  • Increase awareness about the history of colonisation and the ongoing efforts of First Nations people to end colonisation
  • Support efforts for Treaties (Victorian and nationally) in line with the Makarrata (Yolngu for ‘coming together after a struggle’)
  • Support efforts for representative body that constitutes an Indigenous “Voice to Parliament” at the Federal level as sought by the Referendum Council in late 2017 (see here)
  • Continue our collective efforts to strengthen our approaches for culturally responsive and inclusive practices, examples include AASW, Youth Workers




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