January 26th is nearly upon us. For those 7,457,800,483 of you who dont live in Australia (yes, I sat down and figured it out), this date holds no meaning. For Australia, it is the date that commemorates the founding of our (once) great nation. On this date the nation celebrates Australia Day. 229 years ago (I can always remember because I was born in 1988, the 200th anniversary) Captain Arthur Phillip arrived on the east coast of the then named “New Holland” with the ‘First Fleet’ carrying more than 1,000 convicts from Georgian England. Despite having been ‘discovered’ many times by the likes of the Dutch and some early British explorers (William Dampier, Captain James Cook, etc), this date would mark the start of western colonisation of Australia.
Now, I won’t bore you with details of the next 220-ish years, suffice to say that we progressed at much the same rate and style as the rest of the western world.
Not everyone sees this day as a reason to celebrate. I consider myself one of these people, and here is why I won’t be celebrating Australia Day. #notmyaustraliaday
- January 26th marks the beginning of the systematic slaughter of the native Aboriginal population, one of the oldest indigenous populations on the planet, with history going back as far as at least 50,000 years. Many Australians remember this day as ‘Invasion Day’, with regard to the invading European settlers. To add to this; the Australian government, between 1871 and 1969, ordered the forcible removal of indigenous children from their families. The people who were taken from their families are colloquially known as the stolen generation. In 2008, our then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd issued a formal apology on behalf of the Australian Government for the Acts resulting in the Stolen Generation. Whilst this was the first official attempt at recognition on behalf of the Australian people, there is still a long way to go to heal the wounds of the past.
- In June 2015, the United States of America legalised same-sex marriage, joining the UK the year before, as well as countless European states that allow gay marriage. Australia, to this day, remains the only country in the western world which currently forbids the marriage between two people of the same sex or gender. Several states within the country have voted and passed the same-sex marriage bill, however the Australian constitution controls the marriage laws, so despite states voting, the national law overrules any formal union. Our government has stalled on this issue for many years now, going into last election promising a free vote from the people regarding the issue. To date, this has not happened and doesn’t look likely any time soon.
- Australia is one of the main allies to the United States in the war on ISIS. Australia has carried out dozens of bombing raids over Syria as well as expansive Air and ground support in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Despite this, our track record on refugees and asylum seekers is exceptionally poor. According to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, there are over 3,200 people in detention centres in and around Australia, 300 of which are children; purely because they attempted to come to Australia by unregistered boats, trying to escape the horrors of their homelands. These people need help, not to be treated like criminals. The people that are being housed in these centres are harming themselves and making attempts on their own life. This is not the Australia they had hoped to find when they got into their boats to try and find safety. Our government has a policy of stopping all refugees who try and find their way here by boat ,instead sending them to these centres on nearby Naru and Manus Island.
- Australia as a whole, has a very anti-foreigner mentality. People take the idea of national pride and misinterpret it to mean that being openly racist is okay. I’ve seen countless “Fuck Off, We’re Full”, “Australia: Love It or Leave”, and other bumper stickers in my time. We like to think we’re a progressive, cosmopolitan nation; however more and more people are adopting a ‘love it or leave’ attitude. With the ease and availability of social media, its gotten easier than ever for the bigots of the world to share their opinion. One of the biggest blows to progress in recent times was the election of a senator to our government named Pauline Hanson. The UK had Nigel Farage, the US has Trump, we have Pauline. I put all three of them in the same category. Pauline Hanson started a political party in the late 90s called “One Nation”, and ran for government back then on the basis of fear of outsiders, Asians at the time. 20 years later she was re-elected, this time take square aim at Muslims. She’s pushed for a ban on the Burqa, has made several claims that the sale of Halal foods fund terrorism, and even called for a national enquiry into whether Islam is an actual religion. It doesn’t stop there, she has questioned the ‘definition’ of Aboriginal, and even dismissed Donald Trumps shocking ‘grab her by the p**sy’ tape as ‘something that was said in private’ and that its ‘probably up to the same standard’ as what a lot of men say.
The Australia that treats its indigenous people like second class citizens is not my Australia.
The Australia that refuses to let people marry who they love is not my Australia.
The Australia that treats the worlds most vulnerable people, asylum seekers, as criminals is not my Australia.
The Australia that elects a muslim-hating, xenophobe to a position of power is not my Australia.
For those reasons, January 26 is #notmyaustraliaday.
Header image sourced from AustraliaDay.org. Fair use applies.