Bypass the BBQ and Show Up this Invasion Day

24 Jan 2022

This January 26th I challenge you to forego the usual beers and bbq, and instead start a new trend. 

This January 26th I challenge you to forego the usual beers and bbq, and instead start a new trend. 

As we have called for the last several years, this is a callout to abolish Australia Day. I have seen firsthand the amazing changes that people-power can achieve, and I believe that collective action is the only way that we will be able to force the leaders of our Country to do what is right. 

One of the biggest barriers to societal change in Australia is that our political and legal systems are colonial and patriarchal. The people in charge, and those who wrote the laws, are mostly white men in positions of privilege and power and although there is lip service given to diversity, the dominant demographic remains the same. The status quo suits them because it allows for them to preside over the governing structures that reinforce their status, so it comes as little surprise that they are adverse to change, and to acknowledging the true history of this country and the current socio-economic position of many First Nations families. 

Our current Prime MinisterScott Morrison cannot be trusted to enact the necessary social change, we have a history of behaviour to draw upon in forming this view. When criticising Cricket Australia for dropping references to ‘Australia Day’ from their January 26 game in order to be more inclusive, he said that it wasn’t “a particularly flash day” for the people on the First Fleet vessels either. He also defended Jimmy Cook, denied that there was slavery in Australia, and sent his finest police officers and their horses to defend Cook’s statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park. This perspective is not isolated to him, his predecessors often made comments with the same underlying message – that switching the script to attempt to victimise the colonisers while eroding the truth of the genocidal violence and policies that have yet to be properly acknowledged and addressed through implementing proper recourse, reparations and laws to ensure no repeats. We cannot rely on him to show empathy, compassion or inclusivity for the First Nations community – so, we need to make the change without him. 

A common response that First Nations people hear in January is: “What’s the big deal about Australia Day anyway? Get over it.”

Australia Day is a celebration of the anniversary of colonisation, and the start of mass genocide and dispossession of the First People from their Countries. It is a sombre day of mourning and reverence for our Frontier Warriors who fought for our survival from the point of first contact with the invaders and colonisers. As the legends over at Clothing the Gaps say, January 26 is “Not a Date to Celebrate”. 

It feels like the general public in Australia are becoming more aware and empathetic towards social justice for First Nations peoples, and that the whispering of social change is in the air. I think we need to look at what is actually being celebrated on Australia Day, and ask ourselves, “Is that really ok”? 

Is it ok that this day celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of Australia as a colony, when Australia is the only Commonwealth country in the world that does not have a Treaty with the First Peoples? 

Is it ok that this day celebrates being a “lucky country”, when First Nations people experience poor social outcomes across the board? Our people have a much lower life expectancy compared to non-Indigenous Australians, we are massively overrepresented in the justice system, with over 500 deaths in custody and no charges laid, and our kids are being removed from their families and community at a higher rate than ever before. 

Is it ok that this day celebrates the Aussie larrikin view of ‘getting on the beers’, when alcohol was introduced to this land, used as a tool to wreak havoc in communities, and continues to poison the hearts and minds of First Nations people today? 

Is it ok to pretend to ignore all of this, because it gets in the way of fun? 

My dream is that one day, First Nations people can celebrate this big, beautiful Country, with all the richness, vibrancy and joy that our Elders have passed down to us, alongside the amazing cultures that have been brought to this land, on a day that does not cause trauma or pain to any particular community.
As Professor Tom Calma AO said, “Here in Australia, we’re fortunate enough to have one of the richest and oldest continuing cultures in the world. This is something we should all be proud of and celebrate.” 

So, my challenge to you, is to forego the usual beers and BBQ, and instead start a new trend for January 26. 

We need you to have those hard conversations with family and friends. Support First Nations businesses such as Clothing the Gaps, by purchasing a product with a “Not A Date to Celebrate“ slogan and spark important discussions. 

Why not sit down with your family and friends to watch “Incarceration Nation”, “Servant or Slave”, the Mabo film, or “Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky”? 

Perhaps you could attend a Survival Day rally, or find a First Nations social justice organisation to make a donation to, and lend your support to the First Nations community who are fighting for social change day in and day out? 

You could research the area in which you live – What is the traditional place name? Who lived here before colonisation? What massacres happened here? 

Maybe even write a letter to your local council and ask if they have a Reconciliation Action Plan yet? (don’t forget to add traditional place names to the address on the envelope!)

Regardless of whether you believe that we should change the date, abolish Australia Day altogether, or you are somewhere in between; one thing is for sure, and that is we should not be celebrating this amazing Country, and all the beautiful things that make living here so great, on a day that causes so much heartache and ongoing trauma for First Nations people. 

Sending love from Wiradjuri Country, 

Rach McPhail 


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