Time to Change Australia Day

Aboriginal photo

In Australia we are just about to “celebrate” Australia day and growing up it was an important day on my calendar. There was always cricket on the television and I still remember as a 10 year old being in Sydney and watching bicentennial celebrations as a replica of the first fleet sailed into Sydney heads. I was thinking this was a united country celebrating 200 years of existence. It wasn’t until I got a little older and started learn a little bit about our history at school that I started to question whether we should really be celebrating our national day on the day the first fleet arrived.

The more research I did on the history of white man’s settlement here in Australia, the more I started to draw the conclusion that this probably should be the last day we should celebrate it. I hate to use this word but there is no doubt there were acts of Genocide against the Aboriginal people. It distresses me to think this happens anywhere in the world let alone my own country. How can we expect to be a united country when we are asking the first Australians, the aboriginal people, to celebrate Australia day on the day that white man arrived and tried to wipe their race off the face of the Earth. Just stop and put yourself in their shoes for a minute.

The hurt and pain we have caused them since 1788 can never be repaid. Yes we do have to move on from the past but being a white Australian I don’t think we have done enough to right the wrongs of previous generations. (If you want to hear a powerful depiction of these wrongs then watch Stan Grant’s video). The first step is to recognise the Aboriginals in the constitution as the first inhabitants of the country – something they have been lobbying the government to do for many years. We also need to change sections 25 & 51 that still permit race discrimination. Do we really need a referendum for this, costing millions of dollars; surely common sense can prevail here. The millions saved could be better used in Aboriginal health care programs. It is hard to believe that Australia is the only developed country that still has Trachoma, a debilitating eye disease that causes people to be needlessly blind and can be fixed by a simple operation – never heard of it? Well that is probably because it only affects our Indigenous population so doesn’t get mainstream attention!

Not being an Aboriginal myself I am not fully aware of the racism that they face, but I am fully aware it is out there. Several years ago, I was a volunteer at a local Australian football club here in Canberra and was also on the board for awhile. At that time the club had two aboriginal players in the seniors team including one who was an ex AFL Player. They both handled themselves very well and were great ambassadors for their people and the sport, in fact they were great human beings. There was quite a large aboriginal population in the town that this Football Club represented so one evening when I was chatting to the General Manager I suggested that we should go to all the schools in the area to promote the club and make sure that all Aboriginal youth were given equal opportunities to play the sport. My thinking was that many Aboriginals are exceptional athletes, in fact some of the greatest footballers ever to play the game have been Aboriginal, so they could be a great asset to the club and also it would help with youth inclusion in the area. Also I wanted to make sure we as a community football club were doing everything possible to ensure that everyone was given the opportunity to play AFL Football. To my surprise the General Manager said “you don’t want aboriginals at this football club they are more trouble than they are worth”. He put this down to an incident he had with an Aboriginal player several years earlier. I was shocked and furious as he had also had several fallings out with non-Aboriginal players over the years, but was still happy for them to represent the club. It is this exact attitude as to why we are a still along way off from being a united country. Yes there are bad eggs in every race but we need to start to look beyond the colour of someone’s skin or else we will never move forward.

To have anything to celebrate as a country we MUST recognise the FIRST Australians in the Constitution and I would love to see THAT day become the new Australia day. We would then truly be able to celebrate being the lucky country and all that is great about this wonderful country… TOGETHER AS ONE.

What I stand for… will you join me?

Blog5_I-am-somebody

I’ve just been reading this article http://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/Blog/ID/227/This-legislative-act-could-end-newborn-and-maternal-deaths-by-2030 from The Life You Can Save and whilst it is predominantly about new legislation in the States which won’t affect us here in Australia, there was one main point that really resonated with me:

“Donating to effective charities is one of the most important acts we can do to improve the lives of the global poor. However, if we want to build on the progress we’ve made in the past 20 years of saving the lives of 48 million children, we must do more than just give money: our voice matters.”

says the author Scott Weathers a Global Policy Associate at IntraHealth International.

This is exactly what I am about! I want to show others that we are making a difference in the level of poverty in the world – numbers have dropped over the past 20 years and will keep dropping if we invest in the correct programs to empower locals to create their own sustainable change. I want to inspire others to really research the ‘effectiveness’ of the charities that they donate to and to understand that by doing this we can continue to make a difference. The only difference between those living below the poverty line and us in the western world is the country that we were born into. I know that I didn’t do anything special to deserve the privilege that I was born with and therefore feel compelled to share these benefits with those not as fortunate.

Let’s do our fair share

Australian Aid is one thing that really bugs me. The cuts to the Foreign Aid budget have had a devastating effect on the projects we have been running overseas. These programs have helped transform communities and saved thousands of lives. It begs the question, why would you cut aid to a program that is so successful. Why should we in Australia cut our foreign aid budget to try and help balance the budget? As a median Australians are the wealthiest in the world and by some distance! So have we lost the generous spirit that we once prided ourselves on? Australia is forecast to cut its foreign aid to just 0.22% of Gross National Income (GNI) in the next few years. On the other hand you have Great Britain that has increased their Foreign Aid to 0.70% of GNI. If you compare the two economies shouldn’t it be the other way around? What does this teach the next generation of Australians about giving and helping someone that is not as fortunate as us? I was at the newsagent the other day in the queue to pay for the paper I was about to purchase and the people behind me where talking about how much they would love to win tonight’s Powerball lotto draw that was worth around 60 million or so. All I could do was think do these people realise that they have already won the lottery. By being lucky enough to have been born in Australia, and let’s be honest what country you are born into is a lottery, you are extremely lucky to have the freedom that we take for granted here. I would love to see more and more people take a step back and be grateful for what they have in life instead of always wanting more. The day you start to think that way will be the happiest day of your life.

A united Australia

The other topic I plan to stand up and speak out about is Indigenous recognition and equality. We have just “celebrated” Australia day and growing up it was an important day on my calendar. There was always cricket on the tele and I still remember as a 10 year old being in Sydney and watching bicentennial celebrations as a replica of the first fleet sailed into Sydney heads. I was thinking this was a united country celebrating 200 years of existence. It wasn’t until I got a little older and started learn a little bit about our history at school I started to question whether we should really be celebrating our national day on the day the first fleet arrived. The more and more research you do on the history of white man’s settlement here in Australia you start to draw to the conclusion that this probably should be the last day we should celebrate it. I hate to use this word but there is no doubt there were acts of Genocide against the Aboriginal people. I hate to think this happens anywhere in the world let alone my own country. How can we expect to be a united country when we are asking the first Australians to celebrate the day that white man arrived and tried to wipe their race off the face of the Earth. Just stop and put yourself in their shoes for a minute. The hurt and pain we have caused them since 1788 can never be repaid. Yes we do have to move on from the past but being a white Australian I don’t think we have done enough to right the wrongs of previous generations. (If you want to hear a powerful depiction of these wrongs then watch Stan Grant’s video) The first step is to recognise the Aboriginals in the constitution as the first inhabitants of the country – something they have been lobbying the government for many years. We also need to change sections 25 & 51 that still permit race discrimination. Do we really need a referendum for this costing millions of dollars; surely common sense can prevail here. The millions saved could be better used in Aboriginal health care programs. It is hard to believe that Australia is the only developed country that still has Trachoma, a debilitating eye disease that causes people to be needlessly blind and can be fixed by a simple operation – never heard of it? Well that is probably because it only affects our Indigenous population so doesn’t get mainstream attention! In order to have anything to celebrate we MUST recognise the FIRST Australians in the Constitution. I would love to see the day that the Aboriginals are recognised in the constitution become the new Australia day, a day we can all celebrate together. We would then truly be able to celebrate being the lucky country and all that is great about this wonderful continent… together.

By using my voice to educate, promote, inspire and debate, I hope to help lift more people out of poverty and make the world a better place. I hope you will join me.

~Matt