Let’s make Australia Day one we can all share

By Tammy Solonec, Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Manager

Tammy Solonec
Tammy Solonec

Australia Day should be for all Australians, but for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who mark the day as one of invasion, survival and mourning, 26 January is not a day for celebrations. We need to move to a date that is inclusive of all Australians.

Although Australia Day has only been officially nationally celebrated since 1984, protesting on 26 January is not new for Aboriginal people. Protests about the celebration of Australia Day on 26 January date all the way back to the 1800s.

In 2018, Amnesty will be calling on our leaders to acknowledge this plight and start a consultation process to change the date of Australia Day so it can be celebrated by all Australians.

Over recent years, momentum to change the date has grown. Some local councils in Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria have amended their celebrations, and there has been extensive debate in the media. This year on 26 January there were large public protests across the country.

Over the past couple of years, Amnesty has supported #ChangetheDate by giving people a platform to speak on why they choose not to celebrate on 26 January. Now we are taking a step further, and asking you stand with us in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across this country.

In January we will launch a Change the Date campaign and make Amnesty International Australia’s formal position public. We will be asking our supporters to take action, calling on our elected representatives to:

  • acknowledge that 26 January has a long and painful history for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and
  • start a consultation process to change the date of Australia Day so it can be celebrated by all Australians.

We will encourage our supporters to attend Indigenous events on and around 26 January. Check out the events that Amnesty supporters and activists attended in 2017 here. We will publish a list of 2018 Survival Day events early in the new year, so keep an eye out for it! If you know of any local Survival Day events that you want to share, feel free to email the details to us at rap@amnesty.org.au.

What can you do to help?

There are a number of ways you can be a part of #ChangetheDate:

  • Attend a local Indigenous cultural/Survival Day event. If you’re in Perth, head along to One Day in Freo on 28 January. These events are a great day out with friends or family.
  • Volunteer at local Indigenous cultural/Survival Day event. This is a great way to meet with and build relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
  • Where appropriate, host a stall at local Indigenous cultural/Survival Day event with our #ChangetheDate and Community is Everything petitions.
  • Share our online actions on social media and add our #ChangetheDate frame (coming soon!) to your Facebook profile picture.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper explaining why you support #ChangetheDate.

Our country’s history goes back well beyond 26 January 1788. It began over 65,000 years ago — and we’re still making it now.

Let’s stand together and respect the survival and resilience of the oldest living culture in the world and #ChangeTheDate.

Will you join our call to #ChangeTheDate?

P.S. Want to learn more about why this is important? Check out our Cultural Competency modules presented by Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Team. These modules will equip our staff, activists and supporters with the necessary skills and considerations to best achieve success with our Indigenous Rights work.

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