When you’re watching TV or reading the headlines and see Aboriginal people protesting in the streets on January 26, the day they term Invasion Day and Survival Day, or burning the Australian flag outside Parliament House, some can’t help but wonder why they can’t just forget the past and move on.
That was 200 years ago. You’re living in the past. Move on and stop whinging.
WILL WE REMEMBER THEM? On the 25th of April every year, thousands of Australians take part in marches, ceremonies and dawn services to pay respect to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli during World War One. Then there’s the 11th of November, Remembrance Day, when in workplaces, homes, schools and universities across the country stop to have a minute of silence at the eleventh hour. This day is marked to remember the members of Australia’s armed forces who have died in the line of duty. There are countless memorials to Australians who’ve died “fighting for their country” overseas, whether it’s a statue of Simpson and his donkey or an eternal flame.
Just over 100 000 Australian soldiers have been killed in overseas conflicts since WWI. What many people forget is that, since James Cook landed in Botany Bay in 1788, many thousands of Aboriginal people also lost their lives “fighting for their country”. Thousands were killed in open battle with the British invaders, whilst countless men, women and children were massacred indiscriminately, shot, poisoned and tortured. Many others had and continue to have their lives, languages, cultures and children stolen thanks to the assimilation policies of consecutive colonial governments.
Where are all the memorials to these people? There continues to be very little recognition or acknowledgment of the injustices committed against Aboriginal people. Can we ever have true reconciliation without addressing Australia’s true history?
Listen to perspectives on this MYTH from:
Birri Gubba woman and James Cook University academic GRACELYN SMALLWOOD
“How would non-Indigenous people like it if we said let’s forget ANZAC Day?”
Gunnai man, Melbourne based radio producer and activist ROBBIE THORPE
“If we were to mark every massacre that occurred on the continent of Australia, every day of the year we would be mourning our people.”
Birri Gubba man and Aboriginal community leader SAM WATSON
“The argument that we should forget the past is an argument put forward by criminals who want to deny their crime.”
Ngemba man and veteran human rights campaigner JACK BEETSON
“Nobody asked the Jewish people to forget the holocaust.”