January 28th, 2017

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Australia's Invasion Day

Australia Day, the commemoration of the landing of the British First Fleet in Sydney Cove is a day of division. Whilst a large majority of Australians feel positive about the day, that number falls to less than a quarter of indigenous Australians and, currently, only 15% want the day changed, following the lead of the Fremantle City Council. Barnaby Joyce, parading his typical level of knowledge and sensitivity in public affairs indicated his opposition to changing the date.

The choice of date in itself is a rather strange beast. It does not, of course, represent first European contact with Australia. That was when the Dutchman navigator and colonialist Willem Jansz landed on the western coast of Cape York Peninsula in 1606 which resulted in violent conflicts. It certainly doesn't represent the founding of Australia as a country, that was, of course, Federation, on January 1st, 1901. It doesn't even represent the establishment of the colony of New South Wales - that occurred on February 7, 1776 with a formal proclamation, although that had already been down as a claim (rather than a reality) by James Cook on August 22, 1770 at Possession Island in Torres Strait.

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The reality is that protests around Invasion Day are not going to cease whilst indigenous people in this country are denied as Treaty. The impoverishment and dispossession of indigenous Australians from their natural sources of livelihood and common wealth are likewise best initiated and implemented through a Treaty. The indigenous peoples of Australia never gave up their sovereignty and as a result there is a firm legal foundation and arguably even a requirement for a Treaty to be established. Indeed, as part of the political maturity of the nation such a development could be combined with a national discussion about combining a Treaty with a Republic. Until then, Australia will continue to engage in an vile injustice, and justice by definition, involves making recompense and reconciliation to past and current wrongs.