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What does January 26 mean to you?

by Anthony Smith, WA AIDS Council Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group Chairperson

January 26th is commonly known as Australia Day, which marks the arrival of the first fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, in 1788. But did you know that January 26th also represents Survival Day or Invasion Day to many people?

While many Australians celebrate this date as a commemoration of nationalism, from the perspective of First Nation peoples, it serves as a reminder of Australia’s brutal colonial past (and present).

Invasion Day has been commemorated since 1988 – as a response to the bicentenary of the first fleet. Invasion Day protests the idea of ‘Australia Day’ and seeks to raise awareness about continuing issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and the need to change the date to a less colonially-influenced national celebration. For example, celebrating Mabo day on the 3rd of June could be a much better day to celebrate Australia, which would be more inclusive of our First Nation peoples.

Survival Day has been celebrated since 1992. Similar to the USA’s ‘Native American Day’, celebrated as a counter to Christopher Columbus Day, Survival Day events seek to celebrate the fact that Australia’s First Nation peoples have survived and endured British colonisation.

However you mark January 26th, consider what the day might mean to others, be mindful respectful. 

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