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Monday, 26 January 2015

Australia Has A Lot Of Growing Up To Do

Australia Has A Lot Of Growing Up To Do

Australia Has A Lot Of Growing Up To Do

By Amy McQuire

McQuire doesn't celebrate 'Australia Day'. She does, however, hope one
day for a mature conversation about changing the date.

year on January 26th, Australians are given a license to act like
immature children, as if to mirror the illusion that Australia really is
a “young country” and not an ancient land with 70,000 years of history
written over its surface.

If you step out to beaches and parks across the country, ‘Australia
Day’ is about booze and bikinis, and being “proud” to be “Australian”.

But if you fall outside the narrow margin of Australian ‘values’, and
refuse to accept this historical amnesia, Australia Day becomes one of

I remember a few years ago, a flag-wielding young patriot drunkenly
shouting in my face “Aussie Aussie Aussie” only to be confounded when I
stared back at him blankly.

“What?! How do you not know it? Are you even Australian?” was his response.

This isn’t an uncommon experience for those who don’t subscribe to
the national jingoism of January 26, but it’s one that sticks in my mind
because of the comically confused look on his face.

There was a complete inability to understand how anyone could feel
marginalised by this date, and a damning ignorance of the deep pain and
disgust felt by many, even by a growing section of non-Indigenous

Whilst it is still a minority, there is a building chorus that agrees
we should not celebrate a date that for generations of Aboriginal
people has been one of mourning.

Blackfellas have mourned January 26th for decades because the arrival
of the First Fleet not only announced the invasion of the British, but
also heralded the massacres of entire tribes, poisoned waterholes and
flour sacks, stolen children and stolen land, the dispossession of
thousands of Aboriginal people onto missions and reserves, the deaths in
custodies, the rising incarceration of men, women and children, and the
attempted destruction of an ancient culture and the endangered

If Aboriginal people are to be included in ‘Australia Day
celebrations’ why is this unpleasant history washed away by a sickening
sea of jingoism encased in cheap Reject Store trinkets?

The refusal to even consider starting a national conversation about
changing the date, as suggested by former Australian of the Year Mick
Dodson, was met with aversion by the public, who acted like whinging
children threatened with the possibility of one less public holiday.

But the refusal to open up a dialogue about changing the date shows
Australians would much rather stay stunted in this phase than progress
towards puberty.

An example of just how far we have to go in our race relations can be
seen in the year endured by Aboriginal footballer Adam Goodes as
Australian of the Year.

Despite being a member of a league worshipped as religion in many
states of this country, Goodes has had to field a barrage of criticism
whenever he dares state a truth about the current situation for
Aboriginal Australia.

It was only last November when Goodes drew an angry response from
3AW’s Neil Mitchell for mentioning Australia’s atrocious history of
racism on British Radio.

Goodes’ comments were in no way radical. In fact, they were
optimistic about the ability of Australians to change, stating he felt
education about Australia’s black history would help Australia move

But any mature conversation about Goodes’ comments was completely
pushed off the table by Mitchell, who said he was “sick” of the
“continued sniping”.

“Goodes seems not to like Australia. He’s trying to change the
country. Yes parts of our history are not decent but we have moved on
from that”.

The fact is, of course, we haven’t moved on, and to begin to even
suggest this to Aboriginal nations across the country is as offensive as
the day itself.

How can you move on without justice? How can you heal when every year on January 26th your history is deemed unimportant and marginal?

The weight of history burdens every Aboriginal community, because the
denial of this past creates a false diagnosis of the deep pain felt
across the breadth of Aboriginal Australia.

It misleads Australians about the intergenerational trauma that has
left many blackfellas mired in bad statistics. If you don’t have the
correct diagnosis, how can you begin to medicate and heal?

How can you expect black and white Australia to unite when the power
is overwhelmingly weighted on one side? You can’t wash away a black
history so easily.

Australia Day is, and always will be, a day of shame, regardless of
the marketing and press releases pumped out by the National Australia
Day Council. 

It does nothing to represent ‘fairness’. Instead it represents
compounding pain and the inequalities that stem from a history that is
continually denied.

To celebrate this denial means you are complicit in the current
suffering of Aboriginal Australia. And to not even consider a
conversation about changing this date means Australia still has a lot of
growing up to do.


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