Here are some actions that allies can take as alternatives to celebrating the 26th of January in Australia.
What is the 26th of January called?
The 26th of January is known as Australia Day. But the date is called several different names including invasion day, survival day, and a day of mourning.
What happened on the 26th of January in Australia?
In 1788, the British landed in Sydney Cove to establish a colony. They invaded the country and massacred many of the local Indigenous communities.
In 1935, all of the states and territories started to refer to the date as Australia Day. But it wasn’t until 1994, Australia Day was declared a national public holiday.
First Nations Protests
On 26 January 1938, Yorta Yorta man William Cooper and other members of the Progressive Association held a Day of Mourning and protest in Sydney. It was considered to be one of the first mass Aboriginal civil rights gatherings.
“We refuse to be pushed into the background. We have decided to make ourselves heard,” said Jack Patten.
These First Nation protests have grown to all of the capital cities and include speeches, peaceful marches, and ceremonies.
Australia Day Events
Previously the day has included Australia Day Awards, community events, and citizenship ceremonies. Although recently these have fallen out of favour with many local councils.
Backyard parties were popular with Triple J’s Hottest 100 playing in the background. Starting in 1989, music listeners voted by poll to decide on the playlist. However, in 2019, the radio station decided to diplomatically move the date to the fourth Saturday in January.
“Some Aboriginal people do celebrate Australia Day and that’s great,” says Aunty Munya Andrews, co-Director of Evolve Communities. “That’s their choice. But we mustn’t forget that for a lot of people, it is considered an invasion day.”
“For many Australians, 26 January can’t be seen as anything other than a day of mourning,” she says.
“I’m all for having a day of celebration of some kind for all of us,” says Carla Rogers, co-Director of Evolve Communities. “But we need to reflect much more deeply on what it is we’re celebrating, and when we’re going to do that.”
What are the Alternatives to Celebrating Australia Day?
1. Change the Date
The date is considered painful for First Nations people as it marks the beginning of genocide and invasion. People who want to ‘change the date’ aim to create an inclusive national holiday for all people in the country.
In 2018, Amnesty Australia decided to close its #changethedate campaign after further consultation with Indigenous people. They concluded that “there is no appropriate day to celebrate Australia”.
“Changing the date to a presumably less problematic one doesn’t take away the pain – it just moves it on to the next day. This country’s relationship with First Nations People is steeped in pain, and when we march and protest and rally, we’re demanding accountability, acknowledgment, and action,” said Maggie Munn, Amnesty Indigenous Rights Campaigner.
2. Abolish the Date
Other people are keen to abolish Australia Day altogether. To them, it symbolizes the beginning of stolen land, stolen children, and the banning of Indigenous culture and language.
3. Rename and reframe the Date
By renaming the day as ‘Invasion Day’, ‘Survival Day’, or ‘A Day of Mourning’ we acknowledge the trauma of colonization and ongoing pain.
As an Ally, what are the Alternatives to Celebrating 26th January?
- Work as usual or part of the day as we should change the date
- Select another day to take a day off on holiday – ask your employer to let you work on another day in lieu
- Spend the day attending First Nation events
- Take some time to learn about Australia’s history from an Indigenous perspective and learn about their culture and beliefs
- Read a book or listen to a podcast by a First Nations author
- Donate to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organization
- Support a business owned by a First Nations person
- Help spread the word about what you’re doing
Many companies including Woolworths, Telstra, Network Ten, BHP, KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and more have given their employees permission to work and take another day off.
Changing the narrative and rethinking how we celebrate Australia Day is something to consider while showing respect and support to the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
How can you support your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends and colleagues on January 26th? Join Evolve Communities’ Survival Day Yarning Webinar.