Melbourne, Australia – For many indigenous peoples in Australia, the country’s national day represents the brutal colonization, including massacres, the transfer of their children and the dispossession of their lands. Over 200 years ago.
Compared to Columbus Day in the United States, the day commemorates the landing of the first Europeans on the continent, now known as Australia, in 1788.
But on Sunday, January 26, thousands of Aboriginal Australians and their allies gathered across the country to protest the annual Australia Day.
Since 2015, protests have been growing every year, with the support of many non-indigenous Australians.
Aboriginal activist Meriki Onus, who won the protest in Melbourne, said the day “has always been a very painful day for Aboriginal people.”
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“It represents the first day of invasion and subsequent dispossession of many (indigenous) nations throughout the country.”
“We protest that day now. There is no element of (Australia Day) that Aboriginal people can identify with.”
As an alternative name for Australia Day, protest organizers now refer to the event as & # 39; Invasion Day & # 39 ;.
Onus said that “calling it Invasion Day is the most frank and honest way I could really describe that day.”
& # 39; Abolish Australia Day & # 39;
Onus is one of the organizers of the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR), a lax activist collective that operates throughout the country.
One of the objectives of WAR is to abolish Australia Day.
While the recent manifestations of the & # 39; Day of the invasion & # 39; They may be a new phenomenon for most Australians, Onus explains that their ancestors had been protesting the date since 1938, long before January 26 became a national holiday.
At that time, Aboriginal activists referred to it as a “Day of Mourning,” and a similar, though much smaller, protest was held in Sydney.
Onus said it is her direct family history that inspires her, particularly the long line of strong women in her family.
She said she learned about the long history of Aboriginal resistance from family members, a story that said “it was never taught in schools.”
“I am a product of the invasion that happened here, but I am also a product of 60,000 years of living in harmony with this country, and I am a product of 250 years of resistance.”
Aboriginal women leading the protest
Onus takes pride in the role of Aboriginal women in activism and resistance, both in the past and in the present, and explained that the organization of this year’s protest in Melbourne was carried out exclusively by Aboriginal women.
She said that although there are challenges as a woman doing this job (“nobody likes to listen to women,quot;) she also said “there are strengths when we are in numbers, and all together, we are unbreakable.”
“We are brave and unstoppable. I feel really confirmed when I am with these people, and I feel that this is a source of strength, not a source of weakness.”
Onus said he has hopes for the future, and with attitudes that change slowly, the protests will grow every year.
“In Melbourne I feel proud to be part of the change in the social response at 26th January, “he said.” We are strong and we can get there. “
Aboriginal women in politics
Onus’ older sister, Lidia Thorpe, also conducted an Invasion Day event, a dawn service that commemorated the numerous murders of Aboriginal Australians.
Thorpe is not just a social activist. In 2017 she became the first aboriginal woman chosen for Victorian state policy.
Thorpe agrees that his inspiration was also the line of strong matriarchs in the family.
“All I knew was to stand up and take on that leadership role: defend my people (and) work for my people.”
Lidia said that, when she was offered the position in the local Green party to run for Parliament, it was a difficult decision, as she compromised her activist ethic: entering the “kingdom of the colonizer,” as she describes the government.
“There is even a part of me that felt I was giving up my sovereign right to join the oppressive structure of the colonizer.”
However, Lidia explained how she consulted her family and obtained her support, eventually campaigning for justice for Stolen Generations and the formation of a Treaty between the government and indigenous groups.
“There were moments in parliament that were really difficult,” said Thorpe. “But most of the time, I felt good, I’m here, I’m the only black voice in this place, so you’re going to listen to me, and I have some things to say because this establishment has oppressed my people for 200 years.”
Voice in parliament
She said that, in general terms, her voice was well received and spoke positively about her time in parliament.
Thorpe also said that the experience demonstrated the impact of having Aboriginal people in Parliament, in a country that generally has very few Aboriginal representatives at the state or federal level.
“We need Aboriginal people with lived experience, we need Aboriginal people who understand our struggle and our struggle, who understand the argument of sovereignty (in Parliament).”
“It really makes a difference, I think, having Aboriginal people in Parliament.”
However, a year later, Thorpe did not win reelection and is now back to grassroots campaigns.
Being a leader is something Thorpe said is a continuation of the family tradition.
“It is not a decision I have made, it is something I have to do. It is the responsibility I have as a sovereign woman, it is a responsibility that my mother, my grandmother and her mother had.”
Thorpe said that, although I was proud to be the first aboriginal woman in the state parliament, “I will always be frank if I will be in or out of government.”
The dawn service he organized, Thorpe said, was to “recover some of the old man’s wishes and the fights they fought for and died for.”
“We have to take on that responsibility, we can’t stop resisting, we have to continue the struggle that has been given to us. And try to make (Australia) a better place for our future generations.”
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