Why profiting from Australia Day is as good as blood on our hands

On a Personal Note – Australia Day

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Australia Day

Where does one start? It’s a big topic and one that I have put a lot of thought into. First let me say that I personally 100% support a date change and I absolutely 100% support celebrating Australia Day – but not on January 26th

How would you feel if someone moved themselves into your house, staked their claim, kicked you out and threw a party every year to celebrate “their” house? A Current Affair would eat that shit up! Tracey Grimshaw herself would do a live cross, filled with outrange of how one man could move into another’s house and claim it as his own. It would be front page news on The Daily Telegraph, every morning radio show would be lining up to interview the good bloke who was just minding his own business before having his personal space invaded.

Kyle and Jacki O’s ratings would soar after they shamed the occupier live on air. The Block would devote the season to building a new house for the poor guy, with 60 Minutes and Sunday Night racing to see who can tell the “true story” of Invasion Day.

It would be a bloody disgrace.

Sounds a little over the top? Well this is exactly what we did and continue to do to the traditional owners of the land we occupy today. Aboriginal people were here first, yet we celebrate as if they never existed. On January 26th 1788, Arthur Phillip sailed into Sydney harbour and took possession of the land. That’s it. Sailed up, got off a boat and took possession.

Ok, so I know you’re going to say WE didn’t do that and yeah you’re right, we didn’t personally do it – but what we do by celebrating on January 26th is reinforce this whole notion that Aboriginals didn’t exist before Arthur Phillip sailed up and declared Britain was the rightful owner and ruler of the land. If you do acknowledge that Aboriginal people existed here at that time, the implication is that they were primitive and had no idea how to run their country.

Do I think we should celebrate Australia Day? Yes, I do but not on the date that marks the start of the decline and decimation of Aboriginal people, the date that has a dark cloud hanging over it, the date that has caused such divide and pain. This date should not be about celebration but commiseration.

Last Thursday I photographed the Australia Day celebrations for the City of Parramatta. I witnessed a great and powerful protest from L-Fresh the Lion – instead of performing he took to the stage and instead encouraged us all to listen to a set of Indigenous music centred around resistance and protest. L-Fresh has donated his entire performance fee to indigenous organisations.

Like L-Fresh I have been struggling with how I could work and ultimately profit from Australia Day and have decided that I can’t. Money lining my pocket is as good a blood staining my hands.

I will not profit when I know so many suffer, so I will also be donating my fee to an indigenous organisation.

The time has come to stop being neutral about this, feeling bad but celebrating anyway just doesn’t cut it! If you like me really believe in changing the date then it’s time to actively help that happen. Donate money, turn up at rallies, write a letter, keep talking about this on days other than Jan 26th, we’ve got to do it together!

It’s time to #changethedate

Words:Katrina James

Photo and Video: Katrina James


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