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I always think about the 1938 Day of Mourning when Aboriginal leaders from around the country, Jack Patten, William Cooper, Pearl Gibbs and others, came together in a protest and a day of mourning to say that this day wasn’t a good day for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, for First Nations people in this country, and we don’t think it’s appropriate to celebrate it across the country.
I think the history of this country was not a very good history for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but there’s been great resilience over that whole period of colonization, the dispossession and the Frontier Wars and great achievements and great contributions to the nation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Things like NAIDOC week and Reconciliation Week are good things that actually recognise that and force the nation to see that resilience and the contribution to the nation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made.
The power of survival
I think it’s got such a strong image that in the face of 200 years of colonization and dispossession. It's saying we’re still here, this is still our country and we’re going to be here forever.
I think it’s a really powerful reminder to the rest of the country that First Nations peoples are always going to be here and are still here and are not going anywhere and it’s their country.
The work of ANTaR
We are a solidarity organisation, so we are a non-Indigenous organisation with a lot of Aboriginal involvement in the organisation.
ANTaR works for justice, rights and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
What we see our role as is standing in support with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and organisations and also educating the broader community about things like Survival Day, about history, about contemporary issues facing First Nations Peoples and we participate in Survival Day events such as Yabun in Sydney as part of that. We also do a lot of outreach with local councils and schools and at other events at various times throughout the year.
Recognition of Indigenous acheivement
There’s a recent reconciliation barometer that came out and in some areas there has been some OK progress and in some areas there’s a long way to go. One of the big things that always comes out of those is barometers is that both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Australians think that this relationship is important so I think that’s something to work from.
I’m always heartened to see Aboriginal people come up in unlikely places, you know, corporate organisations. Occasionally we engage with corporate organisations and see Aboriginal staff, Macquarie Bank and Westpac Bank, I mean it may not be for everyone but it’s an example of where, in the past that hasn’t been the case.
It’s only been 50 years since the first Aboriginal person went through University and there’s plenty of Aboriginal doctors coming through, graduates from University, I think that’s a real positive.
I think there’s good recognition by mainstream Australia of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contributions to a couple of areas like sport and to some extent entertainment and theatre but I still think there is a long way to go in other areas.