January 26: not a day to celebrate
January 26 has many meanings and everyone experiences the day differently. As an ally, we acknowledge that the national public holiday is not a day of celebration for our First Nations community.
Meaning and impact for our First Nations community
Terra nullius – meaning land belonging to no-one – was the legal concept used by the British government to justify the settlement of Australia. On 26 January 1788, Sir Arthur Phillip raised the British flag at Warrane (Sydney Cove) to claim the land as a British Colony.
Reconciliation Australia shares “26 January marks the day 11 foreign ships sailed into what is now called Sydney Harbour and established a penal colony on the land of the Eora, the Aboriginal people of the area. This act was without permission, agreement or treaty. It set in motion events the Indigenous peoples of this country — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples — are still reeling from today. In short: invasion. Not only does it mark the day the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples began, it sets up European invasion as an important source of Australian identity and pride; ignoring more than 60,000 years of pre-colonial history.”
Many of our First Nations community experience January 26 as:
Day of Mourning: due to the Day of Mourning protest held by Aboriginal Australians on 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, which marked the beginning of the colonisation of Australia.
Invasion Day: as from 26 January 1788 onwards, First Nations people suffered massacres, land theft, stolen children and widespread oppression at the hands of the colonising forces.
Survival Day: which acknowledges survival from past extermination and assimilation practices and celebrates the strengths of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander cultures, practices, contributions, talents and Peoples.
Showing our support
Last year, we began a journey towards deeper cross-cultural connection and understanding which was facilitated by Regeneration Projects and the Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council through the Business for Country program.
As an ally and an organisation that is seeking to operate respectfully on Country, Young Folks will be encouraging our team to practise allyship and acknowledgement of First Nations People on this day.
Our offices will remain open for those who wish to work and take off Friday 27 January instead.
Young Folks will also have representation at the We-Akon Dilinja (Mourning Reflection) held by the Boonwurrung People in St Kilda at 5:45 am on January 26.
How you can show your support
A starting point for showing your support is to consider these self-reflection questions to help us all better understand why January 26 is significant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues and the impacts for them on this day:
- What does January 26 mean to you?
- Have your thoughts and feelings about the day changed?
- How will you spend the day on January 26?
- How can you be respectful of Country on this day and every day?
- How can you have a better understanding of the impacts and experiences of the First Nations community?
- Are you willing to use your privilege to help others?