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January 26 is Invasion Day: Here’s why you shouldn’t celebrate it

WORDS BY SARAH NOONAN

Always was, always will be.

January 26, known to many as Invasion Day, or Survival Day, is a day of mourning, not a day for celebration. Indigenous resistance is not a new topic of conversation – it goes back centuries – and yet Indigenous Australian voices still aren’t being heard.


  • Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 in Australia
  • This date is referred to as ‘Invasion Day’, ‘Survival Day’ or ‘Day of Mourning’ by thousands of Australians as it marks the start of British occupation of Indigenous lands
  • Each year annual protest rallies take place around the country that highlight the injustices faced by Indigenous people in Australia

Australia was built on Indigenous lands and the forceful dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While, in time, many of the legal policies that set this arbitrary foundation have since been revoked, Indigenous people in Australia remain subject to gross mistreatment and inequality. Over 200 years have passed, but shamefully, the impact of colonisation is still seen in Australian society.


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Sianna Catullo, a proud Narungga woman and the head of brand and marketing at Aboriginal-owned and led social enterprise and fashion label, Clothing the Gap, spoke to us about recognising January 26 for its true meaning.

What does Australia Day/Invasion Day mean to you?

To me January 26 is significant, but not for the reasons why most Australians think. January 26 is a day of invasion but it’s a day to reflect on our survival. On the January 26 in 1938, a group of Aboriginal people dressed in black clothing and protested against the mistreatment of Aboriginal people. It is one of the world’s biggest civil right movements, but we don’t learn about that or reflect on that. Instead, Australia chooses that date to celebrate the start of colonisation and its ongoing effects today. I couldn’t think of anything more offensive and hurtful.

For Australians who have been brought up celebrating ‘Australia Day’ on January 26, how would you explain to them why it’s not a day for celebrations?

Australia Day celebrates the colonisation and invasion of this country we now call ‘Australia’ and the attempted genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, leaving behind a hurtful legacy. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still experience the ongoing effects and impact of colonisation, over 200 years later. This is seen in the continued racism and injustices today – though it’s not so obvious, it’s still very real. Look up what ‘systemic racism’ is, or learn about the horrific injustices of Black Deaths in Custody, or the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people. Australia Day ignores the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lived and continue to care for this Country for over 65,000 years.

As a First Nations person, how does it affect you seeing people in Australia choosing to view this day as a day of celebration?
 
This day is triggering and exhausting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s not only the day when I must be super aware and conscious of the people and conversations that may arise, but it’s the whole month. It’s for a month that I am expected to talk on behalf of Aboriginal people and emotionally drain myself with answering ignorant questions. People don’t realise these feelings and emotions are still very alive today and these questions don’t come lightly. When people celebrate Australia Day, they’re actively choosing to ignore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They should take advantage of the public holiday and spend the day and month educating themselves, go to rallies, go to community events and listen to the voices of Aboriginal people.
 
What will you be doing on Invasion day?
 
I will be attending the rally in Melbourne on Invasion Day, followed by going to the Share the Spirit Festival afterwards. All I want to do on January 26 is be around mob. Share the Spirit Festival is an event put on by mob that showcases mob: Blak music, food, stalls and art.

Here are all the protests happening in Australia this weekend

Invasion Day rallies may look slightly different this year, but by no means has the need to protest lessened.

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