Years ago I co-authored a piece for NITV called ‘10 things you should know about January 26’ partly because we weren’t allowed to say ‘Invasion Day’ when I worked there, but also because knowing things is good.
So here’s seven more things you should know about Invasion Day.
January 26 1988 – The Burnum Burnum Declaration
On January 26 1988, the infamous Bicentennial of Invasion Day, Burnum Burnum, a Woiworrung and Yorta Yorta man, ‘in an act of self-representation’ stood on the White Cliffs of Dover near Folkestone Harbour, England, where he read aloud his public declaration the ‘The Burnum Burnum Declaration’, claiming England on behalf of Aboriginal people.
“I, Burnum Burnum, being an aristocratic nobleman of ancient Australia, do hereby take possession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal Crown.
In doing so we wish no harm to you natives, but assure you that we are here to bring you good manners, refinement and an opportunity to make a Koompartoo – a fresh start.
Henceforth, my face shall appear on your coins and stamps to signify our sovereignty over this domain.
At the end of two hundred years, we Will make a Treaty to validate occupation by peaceful means and not by conquest.
For the more advanced, we bring the complex language of the Pitjantjatjara, we will teach you how to have a spiritual relationship with the Earth and show you how to get food from the bush.
We do not intend to souvenir, pickle and preserve the heads of 2000 of your people, nor to publicly display the skeletal remains of your Royal Highness, as was done to our Queen Truganinni for eighty years.
Neither do we intend to poison your water holes, lace your bread with strychnine or introduce you to highly toxic drugs.
We acknowledge the need to preserve the Caucasian race as of interest to antiquity, although we may be inclined to conduct experiments by measuring the size of your skulls for levels of intelligence.
We pledge not to sterilise your young women.
We solemnly promise not to make a quarry of England and export your valuable minerals back to the old country Australia, but to encourage Earth Repair Action to unite people, communities and religions in a common, productive, peaceful purpose.
Finally, we give an absolute undertaking that you shall not be placed into the mentality of government handouts for the next five generations but you will enjoy the full benefits of Aboriginal equality”
Somewhere in the hectic pace of Jan26, I missed acknowledging 2018 was 30yrs since this: "I, Burnum Burnum, being a nobleman of ancient Australia do hereby take possession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal people." pic.twitter.com/iDnMq5PPjl
— John Paul Janke (@jpjanke) January 28, 2018
26 January 1838 – The Australia Day Massacre.
From the Guardian’s excellent “The Killing Times”
Twenty-six mounted police under the command of Lieutenant Cobban and accompanied by several stockmen and settlers attacked a party of warriors in reprisal for the spear wound of a mounted police trooper two hours earlier. The massacre took place at the end of a month-long operation in search of Aboriginal warriors led by Major JW Nunn. In the ensuing inquiry, Sergeant John Lee said 40 Aboriginal warriors had been killed.
January 26 1938 – 25 men were forced to participate in a First Fleet Reenactment.
We tend to talk more about how during the sesquicentennial (unnecessarily fancy word meaning ‘150 year anniversary’) Aboriginal people gathered to hold the first Day of Mourning, but it also important to remember that in another part of town 25 men were forced, under threat to their families, to participate in a reenactment of the arrival of the First Fleet, playing the role of the ‘retreating natives’.
Not January 26, every year. We exist on other days too.
This one will will come as a surprise to many non-Indigenous people, especially editors of various mainstream media outlets, but we do not simply apparate on the main streets of major cities at sunrise for protest marches only to fade back into the mist as the last chant of ‘Always Was Always Be’ echoes over the horizon at dusk on January 26.
We are actually real people who have thoughts and opinions the whole year around that you can listen to.
January 26 2021. Change the Date is dead. White people killed it.
Change the date is dead.
It actually died a couple of years back when white people ruined it by hijacking Indigenous intent and putting forward the notion that most people would love to celebrate white supremacist nation building mythology, just not on January 26th.
But as Meriki Onus recently wrote, “don’t confuse our calls for justice for calls for symbolism or token gestures. We aren’t here for a one-word change in the anthem, a meaningless reform in the constitution, or moving a celebration of Invasion to another day.
We are here for justice. We are here for Indigenous rights. And we are still here, every day, fighting for sovereignty to protect Indigenous people and our sacred lands.”
January 26 2021. We are winning
Even though it might not feel like it given that the insults and pushback from the government seem to get bigger and more racist each year, that is actually a sign of our strength and their weakness.
They show their weakness and fear through their increasingly desperate attempts to dismiss Indigenous opposition and cling to a white supremacist interpretation of Australian identity that more and more people every year reject.
This leads me to:
January 26, the future. Invasion Day.
While people call for Australia Day to be abolished, there are some white people who argue that this would be erasing history.
To help alleviate these concerns I would like to assure everyone that we will never forget the 26th of January.
It will always be Invasion Day
- Torres Strait Islanders are Indigenous too. So when you put “First Nations and Torres Strait Islander” or “Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander” on your job ads, application call outs etc, you’re effectively saying that Torres Strait Islanders are not Indigenous when they are the second Indigenous group in this country and Australia.
- Also, don’t talk during a minute’s silence. It’s disrespectful… and you should know that!
When you just can't stop talking –> ABC reporter during the one minute's silence pic.twitter.com/YkVBgUkSCh
— Andrew Backhouse (@Andytwit123) January 26, 2021
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