January 26 is Invasion Day. It is the anniversary of tragedy for the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, whose world was turned upside down in 1788. The colonising forces planted a flag, and the British Crown declared it terra nullius, or empty land. This was a lie. What followed was the brutal dispossession and systematic genocide perpetrated against people who were very much present! This continent was the home of more than 500 diverse nations — fresh water and salt water people — who spoke more than 260 languages. These highly sophisticated societies lived in harmony with the land.
The occupation that started in Sydney spread across the continent. And it was resisted! This has taken many forms, from the frontier wars to today’s expanding tidal wave of opposition to Australia Day. In 1938, a Day of Mourning protested the 150th anniversary of British colonisation and demanded equality. Fifty years later, widespread rejection of the jingoistic bicentenary drew 40,000 to a multiracial march on Sydney, led by 15,000 Aboriginal people asserting their sovereignty.
The tide is turning. There is a deepening understanding across the community that 26 January cannot be a day for celebration. Support is growing for the demands of First Nations, and many organisations are displaying their solidarity in concrete ways.
More Local Councils have joined the movement, refusing to hold Australia Day events — in defiance of bullying by the Morrison government, such as withdrawing their right to hold citizenship ceremonies. This year, the Glen Eira Council will challenge the flag protocols by flying flags at half mast to acknowledge 26 January as a day of mourning.
Cricket Australia has junked all references to Australia Day from the promotion of its Big Bash League. The Prime Minister is trying to fan a backlash against this decision, but “ScoMo” is the one who will be on the wrong side of history. Let Cricket Australia know you support its stand.
Businesses are also feeling winds of change. Cinema Nova promptly pulled a National Australia Day Council ad propagandising the day as belonging to everyone. The Nova was responding to a tweet from Meriki Onus, a leader of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, pointing out that the ad is insensitive to Indigenous viewers. Arrente feminist and unionist, Celeste Liddle, got a similar response when posting her disappointment that Brad Shepard Brewing Company was promoting an event on January 26. The business changed its tune, removing all reference to Australia Day and committing to “learn more about the issue and how we can be part of a positive change.” This is the result of a strong, united and growing movement with deep roots.
More than a scheduling question. Some who recognise that celebration of 26 January is problematic think the solution is to move Australia Day to a different date. We disagree. Besides its genocidal racism, Australia Day promotes reactionary nationalism — the idea that we, whose wages and lands are stolen, have common cause with the thieves in control, not with the exploited and oppressed in other countries.
Aussie nationalism is toxic for the multi-ethnic, multi-gendered working class, including First peoples. Australia is a society built on the stolen lands of the First Nations. It is also built on the shameful legacy of the White Australia policy. And it is a society divided by class — haves versus have-nots. The flag waving and parades are designed to make working people believe in a mythical national interest, based on the lie that we’re all in it together.
Australia Day should be abolished! While many workers appreciate the public holiday, this day has got to go! There are plenty of dates deserving of public holidays. We have long advocated that May Day — the international workers’ day — be made a public holiday. We support First Nations people choosing a day to celebrate the survival of the oldest living culture on earth.
- Recognise sovereignty. Self determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island nations. Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs. Treaties with each sovereign nation.
- Build international solidarity between First Peoples, workers and the oppressed to rescue the environment and to dispossess the profiteers enriched from the theft of Indigenous land and workers’ labour.
Issued by the Freedom Socialist Party, 26 January 2021