• Tarneen Onus-Williams says January 26 will always be a day of protest. (AAP)Source: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison's proposal to keep Australia Day and recognise Indigenous achievements on another date has been criticised as missing the mark.
25 Sep 2018 - 3:04 PM  UPDATED 26 Sep 2018 - 10:27 AM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to create a new national day to recognise Indigenous Australians, in an effort to sidestep the growing calls for Australia Day to be moved from January 26.  

After revoking Byron Shire Council's right to hold citizenship ceremonies after the NSW council planned to move its Australia Day celebrations a day forward, Mr Morrison is now floating the idea of a separate day to recognise the achievements of Indigenous Australians.

"We don't have to pull Australia Day down to actually recognise the achievements of Indigenous Australia, the oldest living culture in the world, the two can coexist," he told Channel Seven. 

But some, including Tarneen Onus-Williams who was a co-organisor of Melbourne's 'Abolish Australia Day' rally this year, say he has completely missed the point.

"It's creating a diversion path and not actually dealing with the fact that we've been protesting on January 26 for 80 years for things to change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," Ms Onus-Williams told NITV News. 

"It’s about genocide, it's not about our achievements." 

Ms Onus-Williams, a Yigar Gunditjmara, Bindal, Yorta Yorta and Torres Strait Islander woman, says First Nations peoples do not need the prime minister to tell them of their achievements. 

"Is our achievement assimilation? Whose achievements will we be celebrating? What’s the point if the truth is not being told."

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Marlene Longbottom, a Yuin woman and PhD candidate researching violence and trauma in Indigenous communities, told NITV News she's perplexed at the suggestion of a new national day. 

"Just shift the day of Australia Day, it's an easy thing to do," she said. "I think it will honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experiences of colonisation." 

She says the nation has a history of sweeping things under the carpet. 

"We're stuck in this place where black people can't share their truth and if we can't tell our truth then were not living in a democratic society. It shouldn’t be connected to one political frame of mind." 

'Success built on suffering'

Co-chair of National Congress of Australia's First Peoples Rod Little welcomed the discussion of a new national day, but said it needed to be led by 'truth telling' about historical injustices.

"What we disagree on is I guess the forgetting of the 60,000 year history and what has happened since colonisation," he told NITV News. 

"We acknowledge the prime minister acknowledging success in there, but very flippant in terms of the suffering that have been cause by colonisation and the effects are still here today," he said.

Mr Little says Australia needs a conversation about its own history. 

"This nation's success was built on First Peoples' suffering, there's no doubt about that, and yes we share some of that success today, but the acknowledgement and the history has been hidden from other Australians as well," he said. 

"We know we can't undo the history but we can expose the truth of our history." 

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It comes as Nationals Deputy Leader Bridget McKenzie mistakenly said January 26 marked 'the day Captain Cook stepped ashore'. 

"That is when the course of our nation changed forever. When Captain Cook stepped ashore,” Senator McKenzie told Sky News on Tuesday. 

“And from then on, we’ve built an incredibly successful society, best multicultural society in the world.”

January 26 actually marks arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, which was commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip. Captain Cook had died nine years earlier in 1779. 

"The fact people in parliament cannot get history right is a major concern," said Ms Longbottom. "When there is reporting of inaccuracies it creates confusion on what the truth really is."

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