Fkn Straya Day

17 Jan 2019

We don’t need to change the date. We need to #changethenation.

I use Straya here as a pejorative for its cute but dangerous jingoism. On other occasions I use it for other contexts.

In the instance of 26th January I use it to convey disbelief and frustration at the continuing treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the structural instruments that Australia uses to continue to colonise and dispossess us.

How are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people expected to celebrate or participate in a day that proudly props up a false ideal? A wide brown land, a fair go, democracy, freedoms, lifestyle, our multicultural society.

These are things we’re to celebrate on the day with superficial glee while ignoring any unsettled or substantive matters. I always feel like we’re mythologising a hope of what we want and believe our country to be not what it is.

This mythology is dangerous.

We don’t need to change the date. We need to #changethenation.

Indigenous people in Australia are fodder to this mythology. Not only in the past but still now, in the present.

Just last week a 13 year old boy right here in Perth was “allegedly manhandled and locked in a “cage” at the rear of the store for supposedly attempting to steal a bottle of soft drink.” An adult man thought it was okay to do this to a kid over a bloody soft drink.

A Perth man has been charged over manhandling a nine-year old Aboriginal boy and locking him in a supermarket store-room.

— NITV (@NITV) January 10, 2019

We don’t need to change the date. We need to #changethenation.

The same week another 13 year old, this time a girl in Hobart, “was wrongfully arrested and detained overnight for breaching a “non-existent curfew.”

Rather than take the kid home to her parents a few kilometres away to inquire about or clarify the matter, they drove her to a remand centre and kept her in overnight.

If only an adult or the police force behaving this way were a thing of the past. We, modern Australia, consider many of the punishments for adults and children from Georgian and Victorian England for stealing a loaf of bread as barbaric and antiquated.

Locking a kid in a store room over a soft drink or wrongly throwing a kid in a remand centre is barbaric, let’s not dance around the issue.

We don’t need to change the date. We need to #changethenation.

Why should Indigenous Australian’s choose to participate in a jingoist celebration that props up a falsehood and worse yet ignores the reality that exists for too many people.

The reality that the wrongs and barbarism of the past is very much the present for many of us still.

In the past I was a fan of #changethedate for a more accurate event or milestone.

Dr Aron Paul and I were of the same mind on January 1st, as that’s the day the Commonwealth of Australia came into being in 1901.

Dr Paul gives a quick but good account of things here.

Before that we were disparate colonies of different means but equally horrendous ends when it came to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Other dates have been suggested which the ABC covers well enough here.

It’s an exciting time at the moment. Indigenous folks are not alone in wanting to see substantive change.

These days I feel Straya Day and all the palaver around it are a consuming distraction and changing the date plays into the behaviour and ploy of ignoring unsettled and substantive matters. Straya Day always reminds me of Toni Morrison’s remarks that the purpose of racism is distraction. Luke Pearson made a fine point earlier this week about “symbolic gestures” and how we in Australia use “them to pretend that no further changes are required.” I see changing the date as a symbolic gesture. I for one have had enough of symbolic gestures without substantive change.

We don’t need to change the date. We need to #changethenation.

I’ve come to realise the importance of Invasion Day events as a therapeutic and political push back against jingoist Straya Day. Invasion Day and other events and movements are opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous to staunchly push back while imagining and striving for more.

There are profound changes taking, or have already taken, root across Australia. An internet poll by The Australia Institute published by the ABC on 25th January 2018 is enlightening.

Most Aussies don’t mind when Australia Day is held, poll finds

— Pearson In The Wind (@LukeLPearson) January 17, 2019

I wonder what it will be like in 2019, or 2024 and 2030. Yes an ABC poll is not a Nielsen, News or Galaxy poll but call me naively optimistic. I’m hopeful from the experience of the years leading up to the same sex marriage plebiscite and how public sentiment markedly differed from the political and media classes during 2017 and 2018.

It’s an exciting time at the moment. Indigenous folks are not alone in wanting to see substantive change. The #UluruStatement and the ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth’ mantra have taken root in the hearts and minds of more people, the ABC poll, a vanguard of local government councils moving or cancelling their Straya Day events, and same sex marriage rights seem to point to an appetite for progress.

Maybe #Changethenation is not such a far off idea as it seems.

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