WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following piece may contain images of deceased persons.
I have never been one to celebrate Australia Day, well, I have never been one to celebrate being Australian anyway. I am rarely proud to identify as an Australian and these instances seem to be becoming few and far between.
Just recently I have found yet another reason, I had never made this connection before, perhaps because it has been a good 10 years since I have been taught anything about Australian history and then I was too young to make the connection. I had never realised that Australia Day lands on the actual day that the British invaded Australia, instead of it being on, oh I don’t know the day Australia became a federation. Why we would want to celebrate being Australian on the day of the invasion of this continent by the English colonisers and the continued oppression of Aboriginal people since that time?
The thing is how would most of the population know? It is not like we are taught a subject in school that was called “how the British raped and pillaged the sacred lands and cultures of aboriginal people, and how they continue to do it to this day”.
We are taught Australian history, but the facts seem to be craftily left out of the materials we were fed, instead we were relayed a very white version of Australian history. It is not unless you dig a little deeper and do your own research that you find out the truth, so if you don’t do your own research, you live your life only knowing what you have been taught by your white teachers, at your white high school. Millions of people are raised not knowing how Australia really came to be Australia.
These people who identify as “Australians” have no idea that they are not actually Australians, they are descendants of immigrants just like everyone in this country is, except for the Aboriginal people. They are the original Australians, for the simple fact that they were the original inhabitants and owners of this country. White people just came here and stole it.
Yes, it was a long time ago and since then we have come a very long way, and I am of the belief that all citizens of this country can call themselves Australian because we are a nation built on immigration and you cannot exclude anyone from that.
But that is precisely the point, we cannot exclude Aboriginals either, we cannot forget that this was their land first, so they should be no less entitled than the rest of us.
So why do we not acknowledge the wrong doing that was committed against them in our history. By ignoring our past vilification and suppression of the aboriginal people, we are only continuing the torment that has been inflicted upon them ever since the first white man landed in 1788.
We should be taught about our wretched history in school, not the glossy, white version but the raw, black truth, we should feel shame for our past even if we have never been directly involved in it. Why? Because just maybe this may lead to history never repeating. We learn about other countries histories of genocide and repression and we are disgusted by it, and yet we seem to voluntarily ignore ours.
This ignorance is the reason for the continued oppression of and racism towards aboriginal people in Australia. This ignorance is the reason I feel shame in being Australian. I do not feel that I can call myself Australian in the traditionally accurate sense of the word, as I am not descendant of aboriginal people. But I do not wish to identify as an Australian if that puts me in the group of ignorant racists so prevalent in this country, as I am certainly not one of them.
I was born here, so my nationality is Australian, but I am aware I was born on borrowed land. None of my ancestors were directly responsible for any repression of aboriginal people, but I still feel ashamed that they never did enough to stop it either. They never questioned what they were taught. But I did and I still am. I may never know the whole truth, as I am sure a lot of it died with the victims of horrendous crimes, but I will keep searching.
Instead of celebrating being Australian on Invasion Day this year, I will be remembering those who had their lives, their land and their culture taken from them. As well as those who continue to suffer, and I will be committing to the fight that will ensure this ends, and never happens again.