That day (a day of mourning)
The year always starts off with such promise. After the heavy and sometimes stale reflections of December, January heralds the freshness of a new year and birthday celebrations. There is cake, presents, and a week of life that leaves me with an afterglow. But in my ignorance I allow myself to think things are going well, the sun continues to rise and set, as we creep closer to that day.
I don't remember when I became cognizant of January 26th and the impact of it on our mob but my earliest memories are of mourning, not celebration. I have vague recollections of overheard adult discussions after the ‘91 commission, but my awareness of it in a larger social sense came in 1996 (which for the record, was only 2 years after January 26th became known as 'Australia Day' nationally).
My regional home town of Launceston had recently been blessed with the introduction of Triple J broadcasting, (random fact, I think the first song they ever played in Tasmania was 'Pea' by the Red Hot Chili Peppers), and with this new station came the Hottest 100. This people powered countdown was for me, a distraction from the apathetic and hostile endorsement of ‘Australia Day’ the colony was perpetuating. The Hottest 100 was seen as a socially acceptable alternative, and being able to focus on it helped get me through what has always been a deeply disturbing time.
As the years went on, it seemed like it would be easier to not even acknowledge that day. Seeing our wider community revere the perpetrators of genocide and human rights abuses, was a pill I could not swallow. Rather than face the idea that we're supposed to honour this day with Patriotism? Nationalism? whatever the fuck is now synonymous with drunken racists, celebrating their ‘freedom of speech’.
I have tried to ignore it but couldn't.
I have never tried to forget, I couldn't.
I have always tried to make things better.
In February 2008, just a couple of weeks after the nation once again 'celebrated', there was a momentous acknowledgement by the Australian Government. Represented by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, an official apology was issued to the Stolen Generations for the abuses they suffered.
I watched the First Nations people of this country find some kind of resolution from that moment, and for my heavily pregnant self it was a glimpse at a future I wanted to share with my unborn child. It represented a chance to begin enacting tangible change and restitution for the enduring and abhorrent attacks on First Nations people.
I knew I shouldn't have raised my expectations in hope that something better would come of the apology, as any significant actions failed to launch. There was only talk of what was happening to our mob (lots of it included, 'They never taught that in school', and 'I don't know why we have to apologise for something we didn't do). Just more, and more government funded reports into how terribly the colony has impacted First Nations people.
I dunno, maybe these reports and Government paper pushing has changed things for the better somewhere but we need things not just to be better, but for the structure of our society to change dramatically. The power imbalance between the coloniser and the colonised exists regardless of which side you're on. You can't claim that it's negated by the fact you acknowledge its existence.
Triple J stopped broadcasting the Hottest 100 on January 26th in 2018 and in the 32 year history of the listener voted poll, there has not been a single Indigenous winner. It took till 2020 for an Indigenous artist to crack the top 10 (shout out to the amazing Thelma Plum!).
In September of 2020, the government sanctioned the removal of the Directions tree on Djab Wurrung Country.
A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released in December of 2021 stated that half of all young people (aged 10-17) in detention on an average night were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous Australians make up just 6% of that section of the population..
During a peak in COVID cases in August 2021, an Aboriginal woman from a community with the highest COVID transmission rate in Australia turned up at a hospital with breathing problems. The hospital had no ventilators and she was turned away.
In 2021 police assaulted an Aboriginal man in a wheelchair, on suspicion of stealing a bottle of alcohol.
In the 30 years since the Royal Commission 500 more First Nations people have died, and that’s just the ones that were recorded, or died while incarcerated.
Time relentlessly marches forward, the numbers of our mob dying keep rising, and people are still arguing for their celebration of colonisation, and that day.
So I’m drawing the fucken line. Either you’re with us, or you’re not. Now is the time to grow the fuck up, own your shit and actively work to dismantle the injustices we all are impacted by.
YOU need to do something.