January 26

For most Australians, January 26 marks a public holiday, often celebrated with barbecues and outdoor activities. Yet, the significance of this day stays largely misunderstood. Few realize that it commemorates the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove, signifying the beginning of British colonisation in Australia. Among the minority who understand the true meaning behind this date are Australia’s First Peoples who as of 30 June 2021, there were 983,700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, being 3.8% of the total Australian population. One-third (33.1%) were under 15 years of age. The median age was 24.0 years. Three-quarters (74.5%) lived in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. For the majority of First Peoples of Australia 26 January is the day on which the invasion of our land’s began.

While the majority of Australia’s population relish the festivities without clarity on what exactly they’re celebrating, The First Peoples of Australia come together in a celebration of our survival. As the First Peoples of the continent and nearby islands now known collectively as Australia, we have survived the massacres, the stolen generations, the so called protectionist and assimilationist policies.

My journey to understand my roots has supported my family discover our origins, yet reclaiming our heritage, language, and identity still is a distant dream. But there’s hope in the next generation. My now adult children are well-versed in our family’s history, the proudly identifies as First Peoples, embracing their heritage and their crucial roles in Australian society. They are seeing an awakening among Non-Indigenous Australians—an evolving awareness of Australia’s comprehensive history and its lasting legacies.

However, as each new generation appears, and conversations still revolve around achieving equity for the original custodians of this land, my aspirations for the challenging work to be conducted still seems thousands of kilometres away. Especially after the strength of the no vote in the October 2023 referendum. I envision my grandchildren not only knowing their history and cherishing their legacy but also living in a society where equity isn’t still a dream for First Peoples communities.

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