Buzzfeed's 'Aboriginal People Respond To Australia Day' video. Photo: Buzzfeed
In the lead-up to Invasion Day 2016, Buzzfeed Australia released a video entitled, Aboriginal People Respond To 'Australia Day'. Generally speaking, I haven't been much of a fan of the various Buzzfeed 'Respond' videos. Many of them seem to be focused on the defensive overthrowing of stereotypes - such as the I'm Aboriginal, But I'm Not… video - rather than taking the unapologetic 'I'm Aboriginal And If You Have Stereotypes About Me, That's YOUR PROBLEM' approach.
This time, though, I found myself pleasantly surprised. For while I saw views expressed which probably aren't reflective of the sheer depth of animosity and sorrow a lot of Aboriginal people feel toward Australia Day, it was honest and frank.
What was even more surprising, though, were the comments appearing under the video. While the usual comments telling us that we're "all Australians" (even if your history continually gets erased) and that Aboriginal people need to "stop living in the past" (even though the commemoration of ANZAC Day seems to not bother them) were of course present and accounted for, scattered amongst these were many more open-minded responses.
Numerous people stated that they had no idea Indigenous people felt this way about Australia Day and expressed sorrow and solidarity. They called it "eye-opening" and drew parallels with Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. While it never ceases to amaze me that people in Australia aren't aware of the issues many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have with this day considering we have long protested it openly, I am grateful that a simple video has been able to educate a few more people and it gives me hope for a better future.
With this in mind, I wish to appeal to those who have been challenged by hearing Aboriginal views on Australia Day. Are you willing, now that you know this, to do things a bit differently? If so, here are four things you can do to not erase the views, history and struggle of Indigenous people on this national holiday:
1. Don't tell us we are "all Australians"
Not only does continually being told this by non-Indigenous people erase our very real Indigenous identities which predate the concept of "Australia" by several millennia (I, for example, am Arrernte), but it ignores the fact that Australia was created upon the legal fiction of Terra Nullius, "land belonging to no one", a view which has since been disproven in the highest court of this country. While some Indigenous people might feel comfortable being called Australian, others feel it is a term imposed upon us whether we like it or not. As members of the oldest living culture in the world, we have a right to feel this way. Inclusion shouldn't have to mean us leaving our identities at the door.
2. Attend a Survival or Invasion Day event as a supporter
Come to our gatherings held on our terms and hear our views first-hand. There are a wide range of Survival or Invasion Day activities happening across the country this year. These include everything from active protests and commemorations to picnics with musical performances from some of our finest artists. Information for most of these events is available on social media, and due to the focus on community, many are family-friendly.
3. Don't misappropriate our culture in a bid to look inclusive
This week I learnt that, according to the Meat and Livestock Association, as well as Australia Advertising Standards Bureau, the word "boomerang" is a mere colloquial which has little to do with the misappropriation of Aboriginal culture. With all due respect, I think many Aboriginal people would disagree with this ruling. Being inclusive does not mean grabbing our culture and shoe-horning it into something else. It does not mean doing a quick "acknowledgement of country" then carrying on with the celebration of colonisation. It does not mean getting an Aboriginal person to sing the anthem. What it does mean is engaging in the conversation and being willing to learn.
4. Educate yourself, and others
It's a sad fact to note that the gazetted day of celebration of foundation was created on the notion that Aboriginal people were less than human and did not conform to British ideas of land ownership. It's even sadder that two centuries down the track, most people in this country still don't know this was the case. Challenge yourself by reading up on the frontier wars, the 1938 Day of Mourning, people such as Barangaroo, Pemulwuy, Yagan, Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner. Learn whose traditional lands you live on. The information is there, and in most cases it's a mere click away.
And above all else, be respectful.