For me and many other Australians, today, January 26, is a day of mourning, and we call it Invasion Day. The myth of Australia Day was just one of those lies we were taught by society for the purpose of suppressing its true history. Like I said on December 25th, there's no fucking way I'm going to celebrate that.
By the time I was twelve years old, I was pretty well educated for a kid, and a star student. But still, after 8 years of public school education, my understanding of the 'settlement of Australia' was that it went pretty much like this -
Captain Cook discovered Australia and turned up with a boatload of convicts on January 26, 1788. When they got there, there were Aborigines living there. However, they weren't really people, they were actually just native Australian animals, so it was okay for the British Government to declare the land 'Terra Nullis.' The Aborigines were quite chuffed with the white people coming along and bringing them things like blankets, mirrors, iron nails and beads. They couldn't understand how they had survived the last 200,000+ years without them, and were so happy that they just tripped off into the desert of their own accord and left the arable coastal lands for the new white people to found their glorious cities. That was why we all got a public holiday and had a barbeque lunch on January 26 each year.
In year 9 at school, the year I was fourteen, I had Mrs. S for History class, and Year 9 was reserved for Australian history. Until then, we had been learning in great detail about ancient civilisations and Asian history. I knew all about the wonders of Mesopotamia, I could debate the possible uses for Stonehenge throughout history and list centuries' worth of dynasties of the feudal system in Japan, and I knew all about how the Indonesians won independence from the Dutch - but I still had the 'peaceful settlement' story for my own country's history. Mrs. S had lived in the Northern Territory among Aboriginal communities had and seen all those things I never had. She didn't pull any punches. She blew the 'peaceful settlement' story wide open and told us the truth. It was a horrible story, with guns and slaughter and genocide and epidemics and dislocation and theft and forced assimilation and slavery and rape and abduction. I finally learned the truth of White Australia and its black history. I spent those classes in deep thought of the implications of what I was learning, while the other kids giggled because they'd noticed that Mrs. S had neglected to shave her underarms.
Actually, I've spent years contemplating those implications, and I'm still working on it.
At first, I resisted any sense of responsibility. When Mrs. S said "...we did these things..." I wanted to say no, not we. I didn't do any of those things. I wasn't there, and if I were, I wouldn't have done those terrible things to Aborigines. Surely, it should be they who did those things, not we. It took me a long time to understand the parameters of generational responsiblity, in which I continue to benefit from a system which my ancestors established.
Indigenous Australians have a life expectancy that is 17 years less than that of non-Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous Australians are hugely over-represented in Australian prison populations. In 2008, Indigenous Australians made up 28% of the prison population, and 48% of juveniles in custody were Indigenous, while Indigenous people represented only 2.3% of the Australian population.
Indigenous women are five times more likely than non-Indigenous women to die in childbirth, and double the proportion of Indigenous babies are of low birth weight compared to non-Indigenous babies.
Indigenous students are only half as likely to continue schooling to Year 12 compared to non-Indigenous students, and only one-fifth as likely to earn a graduate degree.
Aboriginal children are 7 times more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse than non-Aboriginal Australians.
Aboriginal women living in traditional communities or remote areas are 45 times more likely to experience domestic violence than their white peers.
The unemployment rate for Aboriginal people is around three times the rate for non-Aboriginal Australians.
The truth is, I am living on stolen land. Every single social or economic benefit that has ever been afforded me as an Australian citizen is a privilege that was provided by an economy based entirely on stolen land and stolen resources, which were procured by an aggressive military invasion. Gubba guilt* much? Oh yeah. I had it bad for a long time. I wanted to renounce my Australian citizenship. I wanted to commit suicide and address my suicide note to John Howard (the Prime Minister, not the actor), explaining that I could not continue to participate in an illegal government.
*(Australian lingo note: Gubba is an Aboriginal term meaning 'whitefella.' Gubba guilt is the Australian brand of the 'colonial guilt' experienced by Europeans all over the New World.)
Obviously, I didn't do any of those things. I'm still working on appropriate ways to express my anger at the injustice of this situation. For today, I'm writing a blog post.
Midnight Oil says it so beautifully, and ROCKS at the same time -
The time has come
to say fair's fair
to pay the rent
to pay our share
The time has come
a fact's a fact
it belongs to them
let's give it back.
And all those people who are celebrating today, getting pissed on European-style alcoholic drinks (that ruin the people), and stuffing themselves with the meat of introduced, hard-hooved, commercially farmed animals (that ruin the land), I would just like to say - Why don't you just fuck off back to where you came from?
Yes, I mean that as a rhetorical question. But still, I like to ask that question of white Australians, just to remind us all who the 'boat people' were in the first place, and that the Aboriginal people never gave up sovereignty.
Special thanks to my friend Mr. E for permission to adapt one of his protest placard messages from the 1980's into the first sentence of this post.