After last year’s One Day in Fremantle event rekindled the national debate regarding changing Australia Day celebrations to a date other than January 26, the Western Australia council has out-done itself, with 17,000 people turning up to their second One Day event, compared to last year’s 15,000.
This year, Kate Miller Heidki and DJ Kevin Parker headlined the event with top-notch Indigenous acts, Djuki Mala, Baker Boy and Gina Williams joining them.
The eclectic crowd was a mix of young and old, people from all walks of life and a variety of different multicultural backgrounds.
‘Change the date’ politics aside; this was a free family event that brought everyone together.
Djuki Mala combined culture and comedy for the crowd as they kicked off the festival.
The dance group said it was great to be a part of an event that is inclusive of their culture.
“It means a lot to us because we’re happy that it’s on this day and not the day of invasion day [that] was on the 26th. So we’re happy to be here amongst all the blackfellas down here,” Djuki Mala dancer Tibian Cristopher Wyles told NITV News.
“But the main [thing] is being amongst everyone and seeing the solidarity between all cultures here today.”
The boys from Elcho Island are currently in Perth to perform at the city’s Fringe Festival, but that didn’t stop them from attending the Fremantle event and showing their support for the local Noongar people.
Former Djuki Mala dancer, Baker Boy was also on hand for the event.
His former dance group said they were so proud of him and all he has accomplished in the last 12 months.
“All of us, even family back home in the community, and everyone in Australia is really proud of him. He’s gonna be working with 50 Cent. Man, that’s gonna be big, it’s really, really awesome!” Djuki Mala dancer Baykali Ganambarr said.
The two Arnhem Land acts gave the Perth crowd a special treat as they reunited for not one, but two performances during the event.
“It feels good to have him back because we haven’t seen each other for a while and performing on the stage together which is gonna be awesome, a bit of collaboration right there, and most of us brothers being back together and performing like we always use to do,” Mr Ganambarr said.
It had been a few years since Baker Boy performed with the group but he didn’t miss a step when he joined them on stage.
“Last time I performed with Djuki Mala, I think was two years ago and it’s been a crazy two years, been working hard to focus on myself and kind of came in.
“But what happened today was kind of crazy and going back on stage with the boys and dancing and then they did the same thing for me when I was singing ‘Marryuna’ and everyone actually came and marryuna with me,” he told NITV News.
It was a big week for Baker Boy who also performed during the Sunrise Ceremony on January 26 in Sydney.
The Arnhem Land rapper says he hopes to contribute to a more positive relationship between Australia and its Indigenous peoples by encouraging others to learn Indigenous languages through his music.
“When they get hooked on it and start learning the lyrics and listening to it, and then they ask people and they find a dictionary and listen to it and read it, and then they want to learn the language and it’s like a little secret that I can just attract them to,” he said.
For local Noongar women and award-winning songwriter, Gina Williams, it was an honour to once again be a part of One Day in Fremantle.
“I feel really proud to be part of an event that started a national conversation. And I think that it’s important, we’re growing up as a country and it’s nice to think that we can do these sorts of things and we can have intelligent and respectful dialogue around these things and we can do it without breaking the country,” she told NITV News.
She also said although she doesn’t personally celebrate Australia Day, she understands and respects those who do.
Mayor Brad Pettitt also took the stage to address the crowd at the One Day event. He said he was proud of the conversation Fremantle started when they became one of the first councils to move their Australia Day celebrations, and felt relieved to see this year’s event come to fruition despite fears it wouldn’t.
“I think this is just the start … Questioning whether January 26 is the best day to celebrate Australia and asking whether there’s more of an inclusive way that can actually celebrate this amazing long history this country has,” Mr Pettitt explained.
He said Australia has the opportunity to start the healing and reconciliation process amongst all Australians.
As for the prospect of a third One Day, Mayor Pettitt said he is hopeful, and with the big turn out to this year’s event there’s a real possibility of this becoming a new tradition.
“It actually feels like we’re kind of onto something bigger than little old Freo, right on the west side of the country… This is a special day, it’s just one day but it’s one step in a bigger conversation and a bigger journey,” he said.