Australia Day is on the 26th of January and celebrates the landing of a fleet of convicts and a governor in Sydney Cove in 1788 to establish a British colony.
Its a public holiday with free concerts and award ceremonies and that kinda jazz and its a day I hate and has never been celebrated in my family.
Recently Indigenous activists and their supporters have re-named Australia Day Invasion Day to acknowledge the European invasion of Australia and the subsequent genocide of the Indigenous people.
This country has a horrible, violent history that still impacts today on Aboriginal people.
This is merely a very brief overview that doesn't adequately do justice to the effects of invasion and the experiences of Indigenous Australians.
The European invaders did not attempt to create a treaty between themselves & the Indigenous population.
This land was stolen from its people and 'settled'. Australia was declared "terra nullius" meaning the land was legally declared uninhabited. Aboriginal people were seen as part of the flora & fauna.
The invaders brought disease, massacres and destroyed family structure with forced removal of children, disrupted rituals and traditional health practices. The family is a very important part of Aboriginal lifestyle. What anglos describe as cousins and aunts & uncles are in traditional Aboriginal
culture siblings and parents.
The forced disruption of nomadic hunter gatherer lifestyle limited access to traditional diet and medicines as well as encouraged the spread of diseases. It took control of Aboriginal health and lifestyle away from Aboriginal people
There are recorded massacres upto 1926.
It is very difficult to get much written information on the massacres. However oral history has survived.
I know that in the city I grew up in, Perth, in what is now the main business street, St Georges Tce heads of slaughtered Aboriginal people would be hung to intimidate local tribes.
Many of the small towns near that city (like many others around Australia) were home to massacres; Ravensthorpe, Pinjarra (1834), Roebourne, Murchison...
It is recorded that farmers & settlers (after having stolen land) hunted Aboriginal people and later using them as slave (or virtual slave) labour. Although it was not officially declared as slavery as it was in the US but unpaid bonded workers who were beaten and mistreated is slavery even if it unacknowledged by the wider Australian community.
Many wealthy celebrated Australian family dynasties made their money on the back of un- or underpaid Aboriginal labour.
Aboriginal children were often the source of cheap or free labour, stolen from their communities.
The practice of forced removal of Indigenous children peaked between 1910 to 1970 where it was official government practice to steal part Aboriginal children and adopt them out to white families (often as domestic slaves) or place them in Church run camps. It was an attempt to'turn them white'. Earlier advocates of assimilation would scrub children with a wire brush or bathe them in bleach in an effort to find the white skin underneath. It was thought full blood Aboriginal people would die out soon and part Aboriginal people would be absorbed into white society, then Aboriginal people would cease to exist.
These children are now known as the Stolen Generations and no Aboriginal family in this country is unaffected by this practice.
Child abuse is was unfortunately common for the Stolen Generations, as reported in the "Bringing Them Home Report".
I've seen girls naked, strapped to chairs and whipped. We've all been through the locking up period, locked in dark rooms. I had a problem of fainting when I was growing up and I got belted every time I fainted and this is belted, not just on the hands or nothing. I've seen my sister dragged by the hair into those block rooms and belted because she's trying to protect me ... How could this be for my own good? Please tell me.
Confidential evidence 8, New South Wales: woman removed to Cootamundra Girls' Home in the 1940s.
Families were torn apart and prevented from communicating
If we got letters, you'd end up with usually `the weather's fine', `we love you' and `from your loving mother' or whatever. We didn't hear or see what was written in between. And that was one way they kept us away from our families. They'd turn around and say to you, `See, they don't care about you'. Later on, when I left the home, I asked my mother, `How come you didn't write letters?' She said, 'But we did'. I said, `Well, we never got them'. We were all rostered to do work and one of the girls was doing Matron's office, and there was all these letters that the girls had written back to the parents and family - the answers were all in the garbage bin. And they were wondering why we didn't write. That was one way they stopped us keeping in contact with our families. Then they had
the hide to turn around and say, `They don't love you. They don't care about you'.
Confidential evidence 450, New South Wales: woman removed at 2 years in the 1940s, first to Bomaderry Children's Home, then to Cootamundra Girls' Home; now working to assist former Cootamundra inmates.
I remember this woman saying to me, `Your mother's dead, you've got no mother now. That's why you're here with us'. Then about two years after that my mother and my mother's sister all came to The Bungalow but they weren't allowed to visit us because they were black. They had to sneak around onto the hills. Each mother was picking out which they think was their children. And this other girl said, `Your mother up there'. And because they told me that she was dead, I said, `No, that's not my mother. I haven't got a black mother'.
Confidential evidence 544, Northern Territory: woman removed to The Bungalow, Alice Springs, at 5 years in the 1930s; later spent time at Croker Island Mission.
Identity and cultural practices were denied.
My mother and brother could speak our language and my father could speak his. I can't speak my language. Aboriginal people weren't allowed to speak their language while white people were around. They had to go out into the bush or talk their lingoes on their own. Aboriginal customs like initiation were not allowed. We could not leave Cherbourg to go to Aboriginal traditional festivals. We could have a corroboree if the Protector issued a permit. It was completely up to him. I never had a chance to learn about my traditional and customary way of life when I was on the reserves.
Confidential submission 110, Queensland: woman removed in the 1940s.
I got told my Aboriginality when I got whipped and they'd say, `You xxx, you xxxxxx'. That was the only time I got told my Aboriginality.
Confidential evidence 139, Victoria: removed 1967.
The government (who were legally the 'Protectors' of indigenous people) knew what was going on at the time of these practices, this quotes a state government report from the '40s:
One in ten girls allege they were sexually abused in a work placement organised by the Protection Board or institution. Other exploitation was known and condemned, but not prevented. By 1940 the NSW Board's record with respect to Aboriginal girls placed in service was well-known and even condemned in Parliament.
"It has been known for years that these unfortunate people are exploited. Girls of 12, 14 and 15 years of age have been hired out to stations and have become pregnant. Young male aborigines who have been sent to stations receive no payment for their services ... Some are paid as little as sixpence a week pocket money and a small sum is retained on their behalf by the Board. In some instances they have difficulty later in recovering that amount from the Board" (quoted in NSW
Government submission page 41).
The education given to Aboriginal children was described as preparation for domestic or station work:
I wanted to be a nurse, only to be told that I was nothing but an immoral black lubra, and I was only fit to work on cattle and sheep properties ... I strived every year from grade 5 up until grade 8 to get that perfect 100% mark in my exams at the end of each year, which I did succeed in, only to be knocked back by saying that I wasn't fit to do these things ... Our education was really to train us to be domestics and to take orders.
Confidential submission 109, Queensland: woman removed at 5 years in 1948 to the dormitory on Palm Island.
This is very recent history.
Friends I had growing up had parents and older siblings who had experienced forced removal.
It wasn't until 1967 that Aboriginal people were able to vote and become citizens in their own country.
My parents remember a time when Aboriginal People were not allowed into the city centre.
The killing of Aboriginal people continues.
Aboriginal Deaths in Custody are unfortunately common despite the Black Deaths in Custody Inquiry. Legal action towards police officers and prison staff almost never occurs. Very suspicious bashing related injuries are ignored during enquiries if there are enquiries at all. Young healthy men "fall over and die" while in police lockup. People described by family as happy and cheerful are found hanging, "suicide" in police cells (often with many unexplained internal injuries).
Media attention only occurs if a riot happens in the community afterwards. Last year police were chasing a young Aboriginal boy who somehow managed to get impaled on a fence and his community of Redfern (in Sydney) rioted.
Very recently a man named Cameron Doomagee on Palm Island died mysteriously after being taken custody for being drunk in public, likewise his community rioted.
Always the riots (no fatalities, usually just damage to buildings) attract more attention and legal action than the suspicious deaths.
The ongoing legacy of colonisation is that Aboriginal people have a life expectancy 20 years less and an infant mortality rate 3-4x higher than the general population, experience much higher rates of poverty, homelessness and unemployment.