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January 26, 2009

Invasion Day – The 221 Year War Continues.

Filed under: Culture And Society,Indigenous — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 9:00 am

For some time now, my wife and I have been wanting to protest the immoral nature of celebrating Australia’s national day on the day that for many Indigenous Australians represents the genocide of hundreds of Aboriginal Nations across the continent.

Irrespective of what mainstream Australian’s claim the day represents – all that really matters is that far too many Indigenous Australians feel disrespected (yet again) by the celebrations that occur on this day. Aboriginal people’s feelings need to be acknowledged and a more appropriate and inclusive date identified as Australia Day.

Unfortunately, where we live there are no protests to help mark the day. We do however live close to a park that used to be a meeting ground for the Indigenous clans of Moreton Bay. It was used for gatherings for 1000’s of years and we know this (from historical records) because of the midden mounds (that were present at the location) and the fact that local Aboriginal people continued to meet there right into the twentieth century.

To highlight how much mainstream Australian’s valued this meeting place, the Queensland Government forcibly moved the last of the Indigenous people that met there (its unknown what happened to them) and the local council decided to dump its rubbish on the site for a number of decades. The tip was eventually covered up with top soil, ovals were built for sport and a park for dogs was created. Finally the name was changed from Black’s Camp to something more mainstream – Elanora Park, and the fact that the location was important for the local clans was expunged from the public record. The signage at the Park (to this day) makes no reference to its significance to the original peoples.

For two years now, my wife and I have visited the location on Australia Day to pay our respects to the original people who lived on the land that we now live on. This year I wrote the following piece for us to read each and every year until this country acknowledges and begins to respect its Aboriginal people and its Aboriginal past. Health permitting I intend to keep reading this out loud under the figs, next to the mangroves (in the park) every 26th of January, or at least until a more appropriate date for Australia Day is chosen.

“Paying Our Respects – 26th January 2009”

Today we remember our Indigenous brothers and sisters who have been murdered, beaten, raped, diseased, displaced, ignored and forgotten for 221 years.

We remember that they met here peacefully on this midden mound whose name we no longer know.

We remember that here they rested, discussed and resolved problems that the different clans of the Bay encountered for thousands of years.

We remember that we are standing on land which they believed could not be owned but only looked after by humans – i.e. entrusted in guardianship. That all people belong to the land but that the land cannot be owned by any one person.

We remember that as a many Nationed peoples, they were invaded and that the land was never lawfully settled by the non-Indigenous peoples, as no treaties were ever signed with the original inhabitants, as no attempts were made to protect the original languages and culture, and that the original people’s presence was never acknowledged in any meaningful way.

Today we remember that picking this day as the national day of the country is an insult to the surviving Indigenous Australians and disrespects the Indigenous people who died and suffered over the last 221 years. We look forward to a time when this county’s national day is inclusive of all Australians, when its flag represents all Australians and its Head Of State is answerable only to Australians.

Sadly, we had the whole park to ourselves as we read this out loud and reflected on the day.

Personally I think the date on which we become a Republic should be celebrated as Australia Day – a neutral day that includes all people. For example the 1st July – six months from 1st January (Federation Day) might be a good date. Things that also need to be looked at simultaneously include: the republic, the flag, the governor general and the date of Australia Day.

Cheers – Vasilios Theodorakis – January 2009

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