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.