Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why We Don't Celebrate Australia Day... And What We Do Instead.

One of the first trips we took when we began homeschooling 5 years ago was to the Northern Territory. We spent time with good friends and immersed ourselves in Aboriginal culture. We learnt so much about the beauty of one of the oldest cultures in the world. 

But I was ashamed to admit that most of what I learnt was new to me. 

I don't remember learning about the stolen generation in school or that the Aboriginal people killed / massacred by the colonists numbered in the hundreds of thousands wiping out entire languages and tribes. I don't remember learning about how colonists actively infected the Aboriginal people with disease in an attempt to wipe them out. I didn't know that almost 100% of Tasmanian Aboriginal people were murdered. I didn't know that white people introduced alcohol into Aboriginal communities as a way to manipulate and control the Aboriginal people. 

This new knowledge seemed to cast a shadow on the idea that the first settlers were heroic pioneers that we should honour. In fact to honour them seemed to dishonour the people that called Australia home long before they arrived.  

The reality was there was nothing at all 'honourable' about the way Australia was taken from it's original occupants.

Suddenly I realised that what I wanted my kids to learn about Australian history was very different to the history taught in schools and the one discussed in most history books. I wanted them to know the real story - the truth - not a carefully constructed snapshot sugar-coated by a political agenda. 

I wanted them to feel love and compassion for Aboriginal people and to learn to love their culture.

So, instead on Australia day we talk about invasion and celebrate survival. 

 I  ask my kids to close their eyes....

Picture our home. 

Think about how we have a comfy couch so that we can snuggle up and read books together. 

Think about the photos on the wall of our family members and people we love and value. 

Think about your bedroom and how you feel safe when you go to bed at night. 

Then imagine that the council decides to rent out our home to other people - and strangers move in. 

Other people sleep in your bed and sit on your couch.

These strangers take the photos off the wall and smash them because they don't understand that those 'things' have value to you.

How do you feel? 

Then imagine these people start to threaten and intimidate you. 

You realise that not only do these strangers want to live in your home - they don't want YOU to be there anymore. 

How do you feel? 

That's how Aboriginal people felt. 

No, we weren't there personally at invasion which mean we weren't personally responsible. But that doesn't mean that we can't acknowledge the suffering of Aboriginal people. It shouldn't stop us from feeling compassion for what they went through. It also doesn't mean we can't stand alongside them and celebrate that their culture survived a dark time in our countries history.

Understanding the truth about Australia's history enables compassion which is the opposite of the intolerance and judgement often directed towards Aboriginal people. I admit that my old opinions were steeped in my own ignorance. 

I didn't know the history. I didn't know the stories. I didn't know the people.

Now I do. 

That's why we don't celebrate Australia day.

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