• The Invasion Day rally in Redfern on January 26, 2018. (AAP)Source: AAP
OPINION: Where I stop agreeing with the Change The Date sentiment and campaign, is the need to celebrate at all, writes Nayuka Gorrie.
By
Nayuka Gorrie

24 Jan 2019 - 1:02 PM  UPDATED 14 Jan 2021 - 12:10 PM

I will never celebrate Australia and I will never consider myself Australian. No matter which day the country chooses to host its delusions, I will not be participating. Every day is invasion day when you are colonised.

A land is invaded in 1788. Prior to the invasion, an act that was for the purposes of establishing penal colonies, the land was visited, explored and deemed Terra Nullius.

The invasion is followed by land theft, violence and genocide.

Following on was the development of infrastructure, a constitution and independence for the whites who invaded, massacres of the natives, people kidnapped and forced into slavery both native and from neighbouring islands, segregation of the natives, a few wars, assimilation of the natives, more infrastructure, child theft as an attempt to white out and wipe out the natives, mining native land, systematic incarceration of the natives, inadequate health care for the natives, further invasion in the Northern Territory by the army, a few different Prime Ministers, and finally, several date changes of the national public day, with the chosen selection to be 26 January (because this is the day land on the eastern seaboard was declared British).

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During the 90s, a Prime Minister then turned ANZAC Day into nationalist foreplay with the 26th of January as climax. The natives are then asked to celebrate with them. Because no one likes a party pooper.

Today, well-meaning people have begun calling for the date of our national holiday— Australia Day —to be changed. Some people want this for a number of reasons, some of which I agree with. For example, the day has historically been a Day of Mourning for black people. I agree with this.

On this day, I personally, reflect on colonisation and its impact on my family, which we still experience to this day, 231 years later.

I think of my great grandmother who was stolen. I think of her ancestor— my ancestor —who survived a massacre.

It’s also a day I feel angry. I spend it angry that there are non-Indigenous people celebrating. I spend it angry on behalf of ancestors who didn’t have the luxury to feel or express anger. It is with this anger and with this grief that I will join the Invasion Day rally organised by the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance.

I spend it angry on behalf of ancestors who didn’t have the luxury to feel or express anger. It is with this anger and with this grief that I will join the Invasion Day rally organised by the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance.

However, where I stop agreeing with the Change The Date sentiment and campaign is the need to celebrate at all.

Australia shouldn’t be celebrated. It’s not worthy of celebrating. Changing the date is about shifting the day of celebration to a day white people feel less guilty. Changing the date would still be accompanied by tacky polyester flags, still be accompanied by nationalist fervour, still about the white nation birthed by black death. There is no day appropriate for this.

This is a nation built on genocide, that imprisons children and adults seeking asylum, that allows land to be destroyed and sold, that kills black people. It is a nation that regularly lies, is rarely the bigger person, is embarrassingly intimidated into wars, only helps other nations if there’s something in it for them.

Changing the date would still be accompanied by tacky polyester flags, still be accompanied by nationalist fervour, still about the white nation birthed by black death. There is no day appropriate for this.

It is immature and violent, and on the balance of its history, has not yet done anything worth celebrating. Australia Day is fruit from a poisonous tree.

I want no part in white nationalist delusions. There is no amount of Stockholm syndrome that could force me to participate in Australia Day or any other nationalist state propaganda.

It is a day that, regardless of when it is placed, will always be a celebration of invasion and the extreme acts that followed. Regardless of the date you celebrate your country, you cannot change history. Your Australia could only happen on the back of Indigenous peoples. This is a history that this country has not reconciled with. There has been no nationwide truth-telling, no reparations, and very little shift of power to elevate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Colonialism is a process and since invasion, it has been ongoing. It manifests in black incarceration rates, child removal rates, assimilation in the form of education and entertainment.

There is no likelihood of white people 'going back to where they came from' despite so many of whom insist that those darker than them should. There has been no moment when we have ceased to be a colonised people. We are forced to live with the beneficiaries of our colonised state. We are forced to make them comfortable lest we be considered angry, or worse, dangerous. We watch them destroy our land. We are subject to colonial law, we are denied self-control, we experience racism and discrimination and subject to the leadership of extremely assimilated black people appointed by the government.

As such, I can never celebrate Australia and I will never consider myself Australian. I do not understand how anyone can love their coloniser. But what is more, I do not understand why the coloniser would earnestly expect us to.

I could, perhaps, have a murmur of understanding if there was a moment when Indigenous peoples were no longer under colonial control, but this has never been the case. While the nation celebrates being young and free, we are neither. As a nation, Australia lacks both the maturity and bravery to be accountable for its history and to bring justice to those who have survived its violence.

A land is invaded in 1788 and the natives to do not celebrate. There is nothing to celebrate. I owe it to those people to not celebrate a nation that was built on their blood. I will not dance on my ancestor's graves to make white people comfortable with theirs. 

 

Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer. Follow Nayuka @NayukaGorrie

NITV presents a selection of dedicated programming, special events and news highlights with a focus on encouraging greater understanding of Indigenous Australian perspectives on 26 January. Join the conversation #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe