Saturday, January 26, 2008

Australia Day or Invasion Day

I invite you to read this commentary and to leave your thoughts in the comments.

As I stated in the header of this blog ‘Music is the Voice of Each Generation’ the voice of love, despair, alienation, hope…… politics and social issues.

January 26 ….. Australia Day or Invasion Day? A couple of days ago I received a message from Cob giving me the file for ‘Culture – Music from Black Australia’ signing off for ‘Invasion Day’. I immediately wrote a reply …. I disagreed. Cob and I both expressed the essence of Australian culture…. quiet in nature but never shy to give an opinion and more importantly respecting each other’s opinions. As you are probably aware I am editing this blog from the North East of Thailand, from a region known as Isan. This blog is regularly accessed by people all over the world, people sharing a common love of music; in return many share their music on this blog, Cob being one of them.

Over the last couple of days I have been roaming the net searching for opinions and public attitude.

“Australia Day, January 26, is the biggest day of celebration in the country and is observed as a public holiday in all states and territories. On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It's the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.” Australian Government

“On Australia Day we recognise the unique status of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The National Australia Day Council is committed to playing a part in the journey of reconciliation through helping all Australians move forward with a better understanding of the past and how it affects the lives of Indigenous people today.” Reconciliation Commission

"Invasion Day" commemorations are held each year on Australia Day to mark the loss of Aboriginal culture. Mapoon Aboriginal Council chairman Peter Guivarra says some communities regard Australia Day as a national day of mourning for the traditional Aboriginal way of life. But he says the day can also be seen as a day to consider change. "Some people Aboriginal people... they say it's a day of the celebration of our survival," he said."For some people, including myself 20 years ago, it was a day of mourning."As you grow older and a bit wiser I realise that we're only going to get better if we forgive and reconcile." Peter Guivarra (Mapoon Aboriginal Council Chairman)

The 1967 referendum saw more than 90% of eligible Australians vote YES to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the national census of the population and to give the Commonwealth Government power to make specific laws in respect of Indigenous people. This event is often referred to as the first stage of the reconciliation movement in Australia. It is often forgotten that Australia 1902 and New Zealand 1889 were the first Western Nations to grant woman the right to vote. Today Aboriginals constitute 2% of the population, Australia has given back over 12% of Australia to Aboriginal ownership.

Australia is a diverse country, over 200 nationalities. Today 35% of the population were born overseas and 45% having a parent born overseas.

Australians accept there have been great injustices committed against the Aboriginal Community in the past and today we stride towards reconciliation and a better understanding. Personally I wish to see a united Australia one built upon the values of ‘a fair go for all’ - An enduring spirit of mateship and fairness. A compassionate society committed to access to employment, housing, health and education.

As for me I come from a working class family, my ancestors German Jews, among the first free settlers in Brisbane 1854. I grew up in a 'housing commission' estate in the North of Brisbane, that had a diverse mix of European nationalities and cultures, fell in love with sport and music. I went to Queensland Uni, became involved in politics and social issues, I have a Masters Degree in Education..... History and Science. Worked in many, many jobs...... I've taught in High Schools and Universities, played in bands(not really a job), worked in orchids, built surfboards, traveled far and wide ..... my last job in Australia was managing a 'Backpacker Hostel' in Lennox Head.

I came to Asia seeking new challengers and to experience different cultures. I have learnt a new language and now have a Thai wife. I live in a region where the average family income is less than $20aus per month, where my income for a month equates to about 2 days work back home. I love my work, like over 30% of Australians who volunteer their time to help others.

I remain an Australian, proud of my heritage and culture, my values born from the ideals of mateship, honesty and fairness. The term 'typical Australian' is hard to grasp, you think of the outback yet 80% of Australians live in cities, you think of an Australians dislike for authority, yet we resist change and (according to a recent poll) 85% of Australians trust their police force. In the same poll only 25% trust the government and the media.

A recent national poll of people aged 18-25 years asked the participants to list their understanding of ‘ What does it mean to be Australian?’ The terms ‘mateship’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘national unity’ were listed by over 90% of those interviewed.

I remind you all that the Aboriginal Race migrated to Australia via the land bridge that existed between Australia and Asia some 40,000 years ago. With continental drift the bridge became submerged and migration was restricted to sea voyages between neighboring islands. The arrival of European settlers was the natural continuation of resettlement. With hindsight the Aboriginal population were badly treated, that is universally accepted by Australians. Still we are both migrants to this great country, it is time to stop looking back, time to look forward.

For me Australia Day gives Australians the opportunity to reflect on both the mistakes and achievements of the past and to work together for a bright future.



Hank said...

Perhaps not for me as a non-Australian to comment, but it made for very interesting reading. It struck me how similar the attitudes and values of Australians (the figures you quoted) seem to be to those of Swedes. Although we don't go in for celebrating our national day much, probably because it's a pretty old country that never has been a colonised or occupied.
Sweden also has its indigenous population, the Laps, who also have been gravely mistreated in the not so very distant past.
The key concepts are, of course, recognition of injustices committed in the past and how those have affected and still affects the population, reconciliation, recognizing common values and looking forward.
And making the national day an occasion to do that seems a pretty good idea.
Like you said, people and peoples move around. Everybody comes from somewhere else originally. What matters most in the end is where you are and where you're going.

Cobber said...

G'day Bruce.

Sorry to have offended. I'll shut up and upload some more historic Oz rock for the Maddies.


bruce said...

hank thanks for the comments, wise and very apprieciated


bruce said...

cob.....mate not offended... made me think..made me ask questions of my is a learning process... I value your opinion, appreciate your contribution... definitely think of you as a friend.

thanks cob.


Cobber said...

Bruce, we walk the same ground. We see the same sunlight.

And some time we ought to share a few coldies and burn some tucker on a barbie.


bruce said...

Here in Thailand the kids aren't taught much about the outside world, at school I like to add a couple introduce the kids to various cultures, yesterday Australia... taught them a couple of verses to 'Waltzing Matilda' and showed them 'dot painting' and explained how old aboriginal culture is....they had a ball.

Mate Thailand's a cheap place to visit... ever have the urge my door is always open.


observer_ said...

If it had been the Dutch or Spanish landing in Australia well before the English they surely would have eradicated the aborigines beyond existence. Essentially no different to other "invasions" throughout history.
Any talk of sorry or compensation only brought up by "halfcasts" that evidently have the "best of both worlds". Being "white" when it suits them with only a slight interest in their ancestoral roots

Anonymous said...

u r a fuckwit bruce

Anonymous said...


There's good and bad in all.