Australia Day is often described in public commentary as being a day to honour and celebrate the unique culture and achievements of the Australian nation. But this day – January 26 – marks the day on which the English arrived on Australian shores, colonising this land. This colonisation – which has involved genocide, dispossession, and erasure – continues today. And so, for many, this day is known as Invasion Day, or Survival Day.
The genocide that has occurred in this country has not been sufficiently acknowledged, and is often described as a thing of the past. But the impacts of past colonial policies have not been resolved, and colonisation continues to frame the contemporary Australian nation. This is why the continued celebration of Australia Day, on which most Australians rejoice in the colonial narratives and tales that weave into the modern Australian identity, is inappropriate.
Within this 228 year history of dispossession and colonisation, Indigenous peoples have continuously laid claim to sovereignty over their lands and called for treaties to be made. Unlike some other colonised lands, no binding treaty has ever been made here, delegating Aboriginal people instead as flora and fauna under the legal fiction of terra nullius. This false legal premise set the tone for generations of stolen children, stolen wages, and procuring wealth from extractive and pastoral industries without due consultation or acknowledgment of Aboriginal land ownership.
Whilst the Australian government has apologised for past policies of the stolen generation, new generations of children are being taken away in a dysfunctional system of family welfare. In some parts of this country, child removal rates are currently higher than they were during the days of the official policies of forced assimilation. There continues to be marked differences of living standards between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and policies which specifically discriminate against Indigenous peoples, exampled by the stronger future legislation.
Despite the hope generated by the High Court decision in Mabo well over two decades ago, there has been no recognition of Aboriginal ownership of land. Native title is the most inferior form of land title available, and the removal of Aboriginal peoples from their lands continues to this day, in particular with the current push to forcibly remove Aboriginal peoples from their lands in the homelands of Western Australia. Health disparities and levels of incarceration within Indigenous communities are abhorrent, and deaths in custody occur with legal impunity. Many Indigenous peoples are imprisoned for minor offences. Since 2008 the number of Aboriginal women jailed for fine default rose by 576%.
For all of these reasons, Australia Day continues to be named Invasion day. Because, alongside this, Aboriginal peoples remain and continue to resist colonisation, work towards decolonisation, and practice culture and politics, this day is also Survival Day.
This Invasion/Survival Day, the AJDS asks that we think about the ways in which we all benefit from colonisation. We encourage active work to support Indigenous sovereignty and Indigenous rights, as well as projects of decolonisation.
This invasion day, we are paying the rent; will you also pay the rent?
The idea of paying the rent originated in the 1970s as a way for non-Indigenous Australians to compensate for the benefits we receive from the occupation of land in Australia and to actively recognise Indigenous sovereignty. That is, even if we’re unaware, even if we’re migrants to this country, the structures of colonisation were created, and continue to be created, so that the settlers gain financial benefit from Indigenous dispossession. This must be remedied. Read more here: http://treatyrepublic.net/content/pay-rent-rationale.
And on Invasion Day, make sure you attend this rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/1682735441982400/.
Some organisations you can support:
Subscribe to Black Nations Rising, a publication by the Warriors of Aboriginal resistance.
Read more about BNR.
Donate to First Nations Liberation:
“First Nations Liberation is a grassroots organisation currently emerging out of Collingwood/Fitzroy as a part of the 200 + year continuum of the first nations peoples’ struggle for justice, land rights, self-determination/economic independence and freedom in this part of the continent.”
Contact the Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council.
This official statement was released by the AJDS January 25, 2016
Read about our Indigenous Solidarity Campaign.
Read our recent issue of Just Voices, the AJDS newsletter.