Controversial “Australia Day” (January 26): Australia should defer its national day
Aboriginal people mourn victims of colonization (Press Release)
According to the Society for Threatened Peoples, the Australian government should acknowledge the demands of the country’s indigenous peoples and defer the controversial “Australia Day” (January 26) to another date. For Australia’s aboriginal population, the anniversary of the beginning of the country’s colonization by British settlers and convicts will always be a day of mourning and remembrance of the many victims – and it separates the Australian people instead of unifying them. It would be an important step towards reconciliation to defer the national day to a less controversial date,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Thursday.
The STP sharply criticized the threats against aboriginal people who are in favor of celebrating “Australia Day” on another date. “The fact that representatives of the indigenous people are being intimidated is not exactly a good sign regarding the way Australia handles its darkest chapter in history,” Delius stated. A few days ago, the indigenous parliamentarian Lidia Thorpe reported that – because she had demanded the national day to be deferred – she had recently received numerous hate mails, death threats, and threats of rape. She is the first MP of aboriginal descent in the state of Victoria.
In Australia, the beginning of the colonization by British settlers and convicts (in 1788) is celebrated on January 26th. Tens of thousands of indigenous people and supporters will be protesting against the official celebrations next Friday, the 230th anniversary of the land grab. For them, it is primarily an “Invasion Day”, with not much reason to celebrate. Instead, it is on that day that the aboriginal people commemorate the approximately 30,000 members of their peoples who got killed in trying to resist the British colonial power. According to historians, more than 600,000 aboriginals died as a result of imported diseases, forced labor, deportations, and other coercive measures during the following 150 years – and all the 600 indigenous communities of the country suffered from ongoing land grabbing, forced assimilation, and discrimination, which went on long after the end of the British colonial period. The number of inhabitants of aboriginal descent has increased again, to about 450,000 people. They represent two percent of the population.
Australia’s government has so far refused to defer the national day. Apparently, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is not in favor of a policy of reconciliation with the underprivileged – as can be seen from ever-new cuts in funds for the indigenous peoples. Minister Nigel Scullion, who is responsible for the concerns of the indigenous people, even claimed that no aboriginal person had ever asked him to defer the national day. Recently, an opinion poll showed that the public is far from a comprehensive rethinking: 56 percent of the interviewees were indifferent about the date, and only 37 percent considered the anniversary to be problematic.
Photo: Takver via Flickr