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How would you feel if people celebrated a day that for you represented the death of a loved one? In this case not one death but thousands.
Every year in the lead up to Australia Day the ongoing debate about the appropriateness of celebrating the commencement of European settlement on January 26th, headlines the news.
While some jump with joy in anticipation of a holiday, others are left mourning the dispossession, damage and destruction of the indigenous culture and country. 2021 has been no different. To change, or not to change, the date, that is the question.
The destruction of indigenous cultures is a relevant social issue around the world and therefore I believe must be our number one concern.
The unsettling truth of Australia's so called unified day may not be what you want to hear, however, celebrating Australia day on January 26th is insensitive, indignant and inappropriate for many people and must be changed.
Good morning, my name is Jacqui Buchanan, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here at the UN youth young leader's summit.
Today I am here to expose the consequences indigenous people face, the ramifications for Australian society and the goal of changing the date moving forward, on the grounds that we take action against the oppression that indigenous people face every... single... day
The celebration on 26 January 2021 continues the consequences for indigenous people that are reflected in the history of Australia day. On the surface Australia day looks to be about unifying Australia and yet for a growing number the date causes immense grief and trauma.
Australia Day is a day of Invasion.
Australia Day is a day of dispossession.
Australia Day is a day of pain
The impacts of colonisation still exist today, and the date represents a devastating history many of us fail to understand. The epidemic diseases brought by the white settlers such as smallpox and measles was the main cause of the sharp decline in the indigenous population.
This contributed to an inequality gap that still exists today. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) the average life expectancy of non-indigenous people is over a decade higher than indigenous.
The racist attitudes of colonial times also continue to be evident throughout the media today. An example is the segregation of indigenous people staying at the Ibis hotel in Alice Springs in 2015, providing them with substandard rooms.
How can we let such behaviours continue to occur? Further proving my point are the actions of the current government. Condoning the celebrations of a history, that causes suffering, continues to promote these outrageous attitudes by disregarding the views of the first occupants of this country.
What message does this say to indigenous people who continue to suffer at the cost of the gap? Changing the date needs to be our number one priority otherwise Indigenous people will continue to suffer the long-term consequences of colonisation.
Institutionalised racism continues to be lethal to Australian society.
Similar to Black Lives Matter protests, Australia needs to take a good look in the mirror.
Whether we like it or not, institutionalised racism has become intrenched into our society since colonisation. It has become a poison that threatens indigenous lives every day.
These types of unacceptable beliefs and values result in outcomes such as the high levels of indigenous imprisonment and deaths in custody.
As the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) reported there have been over 2000 deaths in custody between 1991 and 2016. The example of the death of David Dungay is all too common.
Dungay was 26 years old and weeks away from parole when he died at the hands of six prison guards. After refusing to stop eating a mere packet of biscuits he was held down and injected with a sedative. He later died of cardiac arrest
The story is complicated, but the reality is that each story ends in the same unjust fate. These inexcusable behaviours continue to speak volumes about the disgusting attitudes that Australian society holds.
It is these same attitudes that object to the change of date as an ineffective strategy to heal the nation. However, If any reasonable person listens to protests and high profile indigenous people, they would understand that this is far from the case.
Jackie Higgins co-chair of the NCAFP stated
"There is a majority of our community that doesn't feel in their hearts and minds that they can celebrate. So therefore, we need to look at the way that we as Australians can be included in that."
Reconciliation is what we should look towards the future with. However, the current celebration of Australia day obscures the racism that continues to poison our society, hurting both it and indigenous people.
Changing the date is one of many steps Australia needs to take to achieve reconciliation and a unified nation. While, changing the date won't solve all issues, this step is critical in achieving reconciliation.
A date that is considerate of Australian history and how indigenous people feel is long overdue and critical.
A new date would consider Australia's history and how that might impact marginalised groups in society.
As an example, would the anniversary of the 1976 indigenous referendum not be more appropriate? Despite, the numerous positive affects changing the date would prompt, this is simply not adequate enough to shift the narratives and systems in society that continue to disadvantage indigenous people.
Further representation is essential, as indigenous people deserve a voice in conversations that impact their livelihood. How can we move forward when we are stuck in the past?
Australia is the only Commonwealth nation not to have signed a Treaty. However, our neighbours for example, in New Zealand have made their national day the same day they signed their treaty.
A Treaty would provide government recognition of indigenous people and allow Australia to repair. Giving indigenous people a voice should be our number one priority
. Moving forward, changing the date would definitely ensure that the stories of future indigenous people do not end as David Dungay's did. Changing the date would promote other shifts in society that look towards a future of reconciliation and overtime improve disadvantages like indigenous health.
All Australians deserve to celebrate a day of unification. All Australians deserve to celebrate a day of greatness and all Australians deserve to celebrate a day of appreciation.
January 26th which represents the first landing of white settlers and dispossession of the country is not that day.As youth leaders we need to take a stand against inappropriate behaviours and injustices towards indigenous people.
This should be our number one priority. By now it is abundantly clear that celebrating Australia day on January 26th is unsuitable and divisive and therefore, must be changed immediately.
We need to address the pain and trauma that January 26th represents to indigenous people, the impacts of racism on society and therefore change the date of Australia day to encourage reconciliation.
As we speak thousands of indigenous people continue to suffer at the expense of long-lasting pain, brutality and discrimination. We can't allow this to continue
Instead, I plead that you Lobby the federal government to change the date of Australia day and join our campaign. You might think that one person can't make a difference, but I want you to remember that from little things big things grow.
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