Each year on the 26th January there is a Public Holiday to celebrate Australia Day.
The journey of the First Fleet (eleven ships) commenced on 13 May 1787. The ships were sent by the British Admiralty from England to Australia. The fleet’s goal was to set up a penal colony on Botony Bay in New South Wales (where it had been explored and claimed earlier in 1770 by James Cook). The Fleet, with the leadership of Arthur Phillip, arrived between 18 and 20 January 1788, but found Botony Bay was not suitable.
An alternative site was found and named Sydney Cove. According to Wikipedia “On 26 January, early in the morning, Phillip along with a few dozen marines, officers and oarsmen, rowed ashore and took possession of the land in the name of King George III. The remainder of the ship’s company and the convicts watched from on board the Supply.” Some contact was made with local aborigines.
Australia Day is sometimes called Invasion Day by many of the country’s Indigenous people. There is a concerted effort to communicate issues on reconciliation, communication and cooperation over land rights and the wider needs of the Indigenous Australians. In January 1988, a highly visible Tent Embassy was established and became of focal point for the aims of many of the the local Indigenous people. “One of the aims of the embassy was to be seen by the many thousands of Sydneysiders whom the organisers claimed did not know, and rarely even saw, any Aboriginal people “(Wikipedia).
The Tent Embassy still stands today and a comment (misquoted, but thoughtless) by the Leader of the Opposition set off a chain of events on this year’s Australia Day. The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were trapped in a building surrounded by angry Indigenous people and their supporters. People heard that the Opposition Leader said on radio, he wanted to remove the
Tent Embassy. Tempers flared as protesters banged on the glass walls of the building where the function was being held. Security people were called in to rescue the PM and Opposition Leader as they feared for their safety.
There was a lot of coverage of the incident in our local media and I believe it had a few seconds of air time around the world. It has rekindled a range of negative feelings and attitudes and set us all back to some degree. Personally I didn’t condone the violence and fear of the protest, however I believe the Indigenous people have a valid right to be recognised as the original inhabitants of this land. They were here for 30-40 thousand years before the First Fleet arrived and they have not been recognised as the original custodians of the land. It is time this is dealt with, sensitively and appropriately.
That’s my thoughts on the matter 🙂
Cheers for now