We are months out from Australia Day, but Aboriginal Australia can feel the pain coming.
By
NITV News, Danny Teece-Johnson

10 Nov 2015 - 3:20 PM  UPDATED 10 Nov 2015 - 4:12 PM

It seemed to come as a big surprise to the mainstream media when Miranda Tapsell told Channel Nine’s The Verdict: “When I go to Australia Day, I don’t feel like an Australian that day, because essentially people are telling me I can’t be a part of that”.

But it didn’t come as news to Indigenous Australia.

Our mob weeps and takes to the streets in protest, while the bulk of Australia gets blind rotten drunk on terra nullius, year after year.

It’s like knowing that on the same day every year, every dog in your neighbourhood is going to gather, wolf pack style, and do their morning number twos all over your front lawn. The thing is you have to clean it up all by yourself, you don't have any gloves or a shovel, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You have to clean up a big, dirty stinking mess that's not yours. 

Welcome to the world of Australia Day for many Aboriginal people.

"Our mob weeps and takes to the streets in protest, while the bulk of Australia gets blind rotten drunk on terra nullius, year after year."

I think I've got the answer to solve the whole sorry saga that is Australia Day v Invasion Day that rolls around every 26 January and I’d like to tell the Prime Minister about it.

Let’s take an agile and innovative approach to this uncomfortable date.

Australia Day causes tension, debate and division every year so why don't we simply move Australia Day to a day that works for everyone?   

But which day?

And the new date shall fall on...

Australia wasn't officially declared a country until 1 January 1901, but that would clash with New Year’s Day, which would mean there would be one less "piss up" on the Australian social calendar every year. 

And let's face it, Dinky Di Aussies would put a stop to that faster than Team Australia Captain Tony Abbott stopped the boats (which, when you think about it, is an odd boast from a man who nominated the arrival of the First Fleet as the most significant day in Australian history).

Most Australians don't even realise that, historically speaking, Australia Day is really about celebrating the building of the first prison.

Our free ancient land of 60,000 years, was in one day turned into a prison. Imagine that: the oldest surviving culture on earth is hunting and gathering one day, then shot and put in shackles the next.

No wonder our Indigenous incarceration rates are some of the highest in the world. We were colonised, given a prison legacy on that fateful day back in 1788, and we've been trapped in it ever since.

So, how do we pay respect to the past - recognising the good, the bad and the ugly - and at the same time lock in a fare-dinkum day of celebration that won’t impact on our quota of public holidays?

On Tuesday, 3 November at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the answer became as clear as the beer goggles just about everyone in the nation was wearing.  We move Australia Day to the 1st Tuesday in November!

‘Why?’ I hear the uneducated patriots ask. Besides the obvious fact that Australia wasn't founded on 26 January and it’s a date that generates a deep cultural sadness for our people (and let’s face it Prime Minister, those should be enough to change the date!), it's simple.

The whole nation stops and parties for a whole day for a horse race that lasts three minutes.  So let's kill two birds with one stone - there is nothing more Australian than the Melbourne Cup Day!

All Australia Day awards could be held and handed out at Flemington in-between the races, meaning everyone gets a free day at the track. It's win win!

“Ozi Ozi Ozi Oi Oi Oi,” I can hear the crowd scream just before John Williamson appears singing Waltzing Matilda drowning out the animal rights protesters’ chants to stop horse cruelty.

Then on 26 January each year, how about the whole nation stops to mourn Invasion Day instead? You know, maybe try not to celebrate the day a fleet of British “illegal immigrants” and all their noxious diseases arrived and almost wiped us off the face of the earth!

It would be a pretty simple and respectful way not to rub it in our faces every year wouldn't it? But don’t worry, we can still keep the public holiday. Maybe we could all walk together as one over the Sydney Harbour Bridge like we did for National Sorry Day back in the year 2000 instead? Remember that feeling of respect and solidarity? It only lasted five minutes, but it was a good five minutes.

Imagine having an anthem we're proud of!

While we’re at it, the national anthem drama could be easily solved as well. Simply get rid of the divisive and offensive Advance Australia Fair (which has links back to the shamefully racist White Australia Policy) and replace it with something like ‘My Island Home’ by the Warumpi Band. Australia is the biggest island on Earth, after all, and it's our home.

Imagine 100,000 Aussies packed into a stadium watching a future Australia versus England World Cup Rugby Final bellowing out ‘My Island Home’ as the national anthem. Aboriginal mob, sprinkled amongst the crowd singing it loud and proud too.

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Imagine that. All Australians can identify with that song - you just have to listen to the lyrics - not just those clinging onto the fading legacy of colonisation that ripples through our current anthem.

I bet you Deborah Cheetham would sing My Island Home proudly on Grand Final Day at the Gee!  Her heroic stance to pull out of singing the National anthem at the AFL Grand Final, along with Miranda Tapsell's interview about not feeling Australian showed, once again, that we were not included in our anthem's lyrics and why it is hard for many Aboriginal people to feel “Australian”. Bravo to them both, they stood up for what they believed in and sparked a national discussion.

We should learn from our trans-Tasman cousins

We've got a lot to learn from New Zealand. They embrace Maori language in their national anthem and perform the Haka together in a show of unity. Why does Australia admire the Haka as a display of sporting and cultural pride, but look down on similar displays of Aboriginal culture?  That's a question Aboriginal people simply cannot answer.  Selective racism may have a bit to do with it. The Adam Goodes "imaginary spear" disgrace proved that. Let’s call a spade a spade. 

And while we’re looking at our trans-Tasman cousins Prime Minister, they appear to be leading the way on national identity again as they push for a new flag.

We also need a symbol that genuinely reflects who we are and I hope that you as a republican will understand. I know for a fact that a lot of Australians want the Union Jack gone.

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It's out-dated and has ties to an old English legacy that most young and new Australians struggle to identify with.

Imagine how an Aboriginal Australian feels when they see the Union Jack? The words pride or passion don't spring to mind, let me tell you. An old Uncle once said to me that the red in the Union Jack was from the blood spilled by the genocide of our First Peoples. Our ancestors. I’ve never looked at it the same since, it reminds me of the brutal and bloody past our people suffered.

"We want our own flag like Canada," I often hear from all sorts of punters on my travels.

Well, there’s a few things to think about Prime Minister: a national day, a national flag and a new national anthem that promote unity and progress rather than division and a painful past.  All these things would send an important message and be an important step towards reconciliation. 

But if I’m being honest, if we want to take it further and foster real healing, the greatest act of reconciliation from the Australian people and government would be to adopt our Aboriginal Flag as Australia's national flag wrapped in a signed, sealed and delivered TREATY!

It’s the only way forward. We’ve gone backwards for far too long. It will be the only real sign of trust and respect Aboriginal Australia will Recognise. The current cashed-up campaign with the same name has so far only divided Aboriginal Australia.  

I mean, how much does this push for a National referendum on Constitutional Recognition that will give the Aboriginal population a three per cent say in the outcome as the other 97 per cent of non-Indigenous Australia once again decides our fate?

Wouldn't the money be better spent on "paying the rent", so to speak, and invest in a National Treaty that gives us a true voice? Watch the gap start to close after that investment! It will give us back our heart, and then the real healing can begin.

"If only the former beer sculling PM would lobby as hard for a treaty as he does for the uranium industry, he may have been able to keep his promise?"

Promises and political expediency

History doesn't lie but sadly Australian politicians do. Just like Bob Hawke did when he lied about delivering a national Treaty at the Barunga Festival in 1988.  Yothu Yindi wrote a famous song about it called "treaty" that became an international hit that all Aussies were proud to dance to. Sadly, not many Australians realised that it was a protest song about a broken promise that, had it been kept, could have changed our lives, and the nation’s for the better. Forever.  

Australian history will always remember Bob Hawke as the PM who could scull a beer. But the mob hasn't forgotten about the treaty and we are still fighting for what's rightfully ours. If only the former beer sculling PM would lobby as hard for a treaty as he does for the uranium industry, he may have been able to keep his promise?

A legacy like that would be much more meaningful than his famous America's Cup celebrations and speech. But money talks and bullshit walks, as they say in the top end.

Who knows, if we make changes now, we might be able to actually start closing the gap and even get back to that old feeling of being the lucky country "for all" once again. Not just for those who come from a place of privilege, because for the rest who don't, Australia isn't a very fair place and looking around the world we aren't that advanced at all.

It's now up to you, Mr Turnbull

So, there’s a few things to get us started Prime Minister, then we can move on to sorting out those other burning issues like gay marriage and climate change that I know you care about.

Over to you, Prime Minister: the answer is simple. Change the date of Australia Day, change the national anthem, change the Australian flag and you will change Australia.

It will be the country it should be, a unified one with its own identity and true history. 

You have an opportunity to be the greatest Prime Minister for Australia's First Peoples and do what every other Prime Minister has failed to do. You could deliver the one thing that would make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel whole again and create a real connection to wider Australia in the form of a TREATY.

Over to you, Prime Minister: the answer is simple. Change the date of Australia Day, change the national anthem, change the Australian flag and you will change Australia.

It’s just a piece of paper, after all, with treaty written on it and a few Commonwealth stamps, it can’t be that hard, can it? Can it?

We achieve that and it will truly be ‘My Island Home’ for all Australians. Let's just hope the greed for mining and minerals doesn't stop the great Aboriginal dream.

Indigenous media like NITV can be an agent of change Prime Minister. We can play a real role in unifying the nation and we want to work side-by-side with you to Close the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage.

NITV is a national platform. We welcome you to take some time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk things out. Speak directly to Aboriginal Australia about the issues raised in this letter or any other matters you feel you would like to talk to us about. Our tribal borders will always be open.

With Respect, Danny Teece-Johnson, Gomeroi Nation for NITV News.