The most important thing you can do today, is learn what this day means to Aboriginal people.
Later today, I will be heading to Treasury Gardens for a Survival Day concert to celebrate the fact that we are still here. Everyone should be able to celebrate who they are and all they have achieved, as it supports their happiness and wellbeing.
I am an Aboriginal Australian, and today – the 26th January – will always be a sad day. It is a day of remembrance. So can’t we celebrate being Australian on another day, so we can all come to the party?
People rarely forget the day someone important to us passes away. As the anniversary of that day is often a time for mourning and reflection, we wouldn’t be likely to throw a party on that day. That is how I feel about ‘Australia Day’.
There is a lot of data to show how the trauma of the past is still experienced by Aboriginal people. Every time ‘Australia Day’ is mentioned, Aboriginal people automatically think about the past and the family who suffered and were killed.
This puts a lot of stress and burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which can have long-term impacts on people’s health and wellbeing. Imagine constantly being reminded of a traumatic event in your family – and even worst, often being told to ‘get over it’. When you have grown up in a culture of stolen generations, only a generation away from being forced to live on a mission, you never forget that hurt. It is upsetting and damaging to people’s mental health to try and force them to.
The Aboriginal Health Team at Your Community Health live this experience everyday – both personally, and as they support local community members.
The campaign on the run up to ‘Australia Day’ can be especially hard. People are reminded of the day weeks in advance – on social media, on TV and with every new flag that goes up. It is hard to stay strong and resilient when faced with neighbours who are glorifying a history that brutalised our families until only a few generations ago – and whose legacy continues to oppress Aboriginal people.
We support the local Aboriginal community to talk about how the ‘Australia Day’ campaign affects them. Health isn’t just about seeing a doctor. It is also about recognising how trauma and issues in the past affect people in the present. Being respected and listened to has a big impact on people’s confidence and welfare. We want people to feel safe in having the discussion about changing the date.
I think it is important for all people to find out what this day means, so they can make their own minds up. But find out from real people – not the news, or social media. Actually talk to people. If you have any questions our Aboriginal Health Team would love to talk to you.
Like most people I want to celebrate all the good things about my country. Personally, I would like to change the date that we celebrate, so everyone can enjoy it.
In the meantime, I will take this day off work to reflect on and celebrate the lives of the family that came before me.
I will never forget – and until change comes, I will focus on my own wellbeing and celebrate all that we have survived.
Feature image by Songlines.