I wanted to publish this post yesterday, 26 January – Australia Day Invasion Day, Change The Date Day. But honestly, I couldn’t find the words to finish it. So this post sat in my drafts, adrift, wanting conclusion. If that isn’t a metaphor for the racism in Australia, I don’t know what is.
I first heard about this book during Mr Grant’s interview with Osher Günsberg on his podcast in 2019. Here’s a screen grab of the episode from my phone, you can find the full conversation here. * Edited to add an article published by Stan Grant yesterday on the ABC; On Australia Day, how do we define national identity? Or is the exercise too dangerous?
I’ve finished reading Stan Grant’s Australia Day, a follow-up to Taking to My Country. When I emigrated to Melbourne in 2008, I was horrified at the endemic racism shown in Australia – but the vitriol and bile specifically reserved for Indigenous Australians is on a whole other level. One of the most gifted players of his generation of AFL(M) players, Adam Goodes, was hounded out the game he loved playing. He called out being called an ape by a supporter at a game in 2013, she was removed from the ground. However, the most rampant of media decried him for doing it, as it was a 13 year old who yelled the racist slur at him. Her ‘future is at stake’, she ‘was just a child’, bayed the right wing, white, insufferable old male commentators. Never mind that in his last playing season, Mr Goodes had probably had a gut full of racism by then. What about his future when he was 13?
I sit here on Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung land. My husband and I are white, we are privileged as we both work, we have access to health care, we have a house, car, food in the cupboard, we’re saving up to build a house. We want to name it, but what do you call a house on stolen land? Even if the white laws mean that we ‘own’ that stolen land.
Using whiteness as our charger, we rode roughshod over indigenous areas worldwide, not just across Australia, but America, Canada, India. Not only the British, but that’s where my heritage lines are, so what I hold accountable. As Eddie Izzard said in her stand-up, Dressed to Kill, “We have a flag.”
We all used to live in harmony with the land, until someone long ago decided that owning the land was great, and the more land they had was even better. Because that meant wealth, as the price of land will only ever go up; which flows quickly into greed. Before that decision, now lost to the mists of time; we all only needed to work and live on the land as a community. There’s even a name for it in Britain, landed gentry; on the rung below peers, but still demanding of people to work for them, pay rent to them, on the land they had lived on, but was now bought and sold from underneath them. Sound familiar?
Yes that is a very simplistic view of the world, but it does explain how the Duke of Devonshire was able to own half of Eastbourne.
People in Australia are often furious that Chinese investors are buying up cattle stations, or investment apartments off the plan, that then sit empty with a national housing shortage, pricing locals out the market. *coughs in WASP*
One of our ‘honours’ this year went to Gina Rinehart, for services to ‘mining, culture and sport’. She pledged lots of money to the Olympic fund, so apparently that cancels out everything else her company has lobbied for. Including, but not limited to the installation of roadblocks to stall any ecological progress in attempts to restore the annihilated land, or to reduce carbon emissions. Only in Australia would you be given the highest honour for mining.
So here I am, incandescent with rage and fury at another bevvie of right wing, white, insufferable old men. Determined to carry on regardless, gerrymandering voting districts in a desperate bid to keep their tenuous hold on power and land. [Although, Grace Tame‘s face during the photos with Scott Morrison was a sight to behold. Ms Tame was our outgoing Australian of the Year, and a fierce warrior she is too.]
Land that was stolen, never ceded. Land that sustained life in harmony for over 40,000 years. The Indigenous Australia map is beautiful. The boundaries are not fixed, it is a representation of the cultural groups, nations and languages from different areas of the country. It’s a record of what has been stolen.
Stan Grant asks in this book, “Can we heal the wounds of the past? … After the struggle can we find a peace that all can share?” I don’t know, but while right-wing politics is in power, it’s unlikely. However, along with the great resignation, the past few years have awakened something.
I sit in shame at the actions of the past. I will continue to learn from elders how to repair the future, working with elders emerging to support the present. None of us can change what has happened, but all of us have a responsibility to take better care and make amends. Please don’t take my word for it, read Australia Day yourself. Learn and understand about why January the 26 should not be celebrated. Change the date.