Welcome to Dig Deeper, a content series allowing you to dive as deep as you like into topics that are underserved in the current media landscape but need and deserve more coverage and attention. Its purpose is to shed light on important community-based issues facing minority groups. To start with, we’re having honest and open conversations around January 26, the national mood and changing the date.
Warning: This article deals with the topic of targeted violence against groups and may be triggering for some readers.
It’s been 235 years since the First Fleet floated into Sydney. It’s been 235 years since Captain Arthur Phillip and the British Crown invaded the lands of many First Nations peoples and cultures. It’s been 235 years since the beginning of attempted genocide after attempted genocide against many First Nations groups. It’s been a mere 35 years since January 26, Australia Day, was made a national celebration.
Since 1788, many First Nations peoples have had many different reactions to the fact their land was stolen from them. First Nations peoples aren’t a monolith. People of various other cultures need to approach all of their opinions with humility, respect, and a desire for nuance.
To help explain the various reactions First Nations folks have to the creation of Australia Day, we chatted with Professor Megan Davis from the Uluṟu Dialogue. Davis is the co-chair of this organisation. She’s also the Balnaves Chair in Constitutional Law at the Indigenous Law Centre and a proud Cobble Cobble woman.
What Does January 26 Mean to First Nations Peoples?
Davis has expressed that January 26 means different things to different First Nations peoples and groups. This can be demonstrated by the fact that January 26 is called a variety of names.
“Every First Nations person and community reacts to Invasion Day in different ways,” Davis told The Latch. “Some people call it Survival Day and celebrate our culture. And others call it Invasion Day. It’s a solemn day for many of us.”
Should Invasion Day Be a Time of Education?
For some folks, Invasion Day is a date when they’ll be receptive to learning about First Nations issues and how we can heal this nation. However, unfortunately, this won’t be the case for every individual.
“January 26 is a very crowded day that has many things projected on it. It may be that some Australians want to discuss a First Nations Voice,” said Davis.
A First Nations Voice to Parliament: What It Is and Why It Matters
According to Davis, a First Nations Voice to Parliament would be: “A body that the government of the day and the parliament need to consult when they pass laws and policies that will affect Indigenous communities.”
Davis believes that that body is needed because: “Governments don’t consult Indigenous communities properly, and this is why the outcomes are so poor in this space.”
As of now, a First Nations Voice doesn’t exist. This is because a referendum needs to take place. For this transformation to happen, the citizens of Australia need to vote for it.
Davis is hoping this January 26 that a First Nations Voice will someday soon become a reality. She’ll also be hoping for this change on January 27, 28, and so on.
“It is recognition of First Nations as a distinct cultural group. It is recognition of their Voice in shaping laws and policies. It is substantive and symbolic recognition,” said Davis.
If you want to learn more about the First Nations Voice, you can click the handy link here.