25 January 2023

Even as a migrant, I am conscious of my role in Australia's violent history

| Zoya Patel
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Australia Day Projections at the Carillion

January 26 has a very different meaning for First Nations people. Photo: Dom Northcott.

Today may be ‘Australia Day’ in name, but there is no ignoring the fact that the 26th of January is not a day of unity and shared celebration, but is instead a fractious and contentious day that divides our community.

The nature of that division is what troubles me.

The fact that some Australians doggedly hold on to their ‘right’ to celebrate Australia Day on the 26th, despite the constant calls from First Nations Australians and allies to acknowledge the violence and dispossession the date commemorates, is concerning.

It’s as though changing the date would force a firm acknowledgement that colonisation occurred by force and that any Australia we celebrate today is built on the suffering of Indigenous Australians – that this is an undeniable fact is not a concern to proponents of Australia Day.

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Across social media in the weeks leading up to today, I’ve watched numerous white Australians take to their devices to argue that they shouldn’t be forced to feel bad if they want to celebrate Australia Day, that they’re not racist for wanting to keep the date, and that spending time with their friends and family on the 26th shouldn’t be a source of guilt.

I’ve always felt that the guilt these Aussies are so anxious to evade is just an inevitable part of their Australian identity – you can try to ignore it, but it’s not going anywhere. Why would you not want to confront it head-on and support a move towards a more cohesive shared Australian identity that acknowledges and makes reparations for the violence our country was founded on?

Growing up, knowing I was born elsewhere, I always felt a certain distance from Australia’s colonial history.

I remember history lessons in school sparking defensiveness and frustration in some of my white Australian peers and wondering why they felt so persecuted when all they were facing were the facts of the past, which had no negative impact on their lives in the present.

In contrast, I could only imagine the pain Indigenous Australian students felt reflecting on our history and reckoning with the ongoing impact colonisation has had on their lived realities – generation after generation facing lower life expectancies, lower rates of educational attainment, heightened risk of chronic diseases, etc, all traceable back to that very first fleet landing on Australian shores.

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Having endured a colonial past in my own family, both in India and in Fiji, and seen the ramifications in the lives of my parents and grandparents, I felt empathy for First Nations Australians and have also always been keenly aware of all the ways I benefit from the violence that was perpetrated on them. As a migrant to Australia, I am able to enjoy the economic prosperity and living conditions that have been built as a direct result of stolen land exploited for its value.

I treat Australia Day as an opportunity to grow and be an ally.

I donate to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation every year on the 26th, spend time watching, reading and listening to First Nations creators, and have respectful conversations with my family and friends about the campaign to change the date. I know that a date change is not the only goal here – it’s the first symbolic step in making reparations and should be seen as the start of progress, not the conclusion.

Importantly, I know that the goal of changing the date is not to dismantle any sense of shared Australian identity or culture. It’s not to take away an opportunity for community building or to deny white Australians and migrant Australians of their connection to this country. It’s actually about creating a meaningful and positive Australian identity that acknowledges our past and seeks to build a stronger future.

READ ALSO Warning: No (artificial) intelligence was used writing this column

This year, we’ve seen the public conversation really grow in urgency, and businesses and governments have taken steps in response to community demand for change. With or without a new date, the Change The Date campaign has already irrevocably changed Australia Day, making it synonymous with a conversation about colonisation and reconciliation. I am excited by these shifts and the momentum that is building for change, and I hope that other Australians can see what an opportunity this presents.

No one loses anything from Australia Day being dismantled and rebuilt. We all stand to gain from the process.

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Really…..genocide? The average life expectancy for an indigenous person in 1788 was around 30 years of age, 40 was considered very old. A significant proportion of indigenous women died in child birth and murder and rape was considered normal practice when invading a neighbouring clan. So- called invasion put a stop to most of these practices but it was no picnic for the indigenous or the vast majority of forced labour workforce imported as criminals. Many for crimes so petty they wouldn’t even rate a criminal charge today. But “genocide” I think not.

Darren Dower-Trindall – Using the term genocide without any evidence is not particularly helpful.

Darren Dower-Trindall claiming a genocide is not helpful to the debate. Unfortunately a lot of commentators throw it in without providing any evidence.
The fact that many Aboriginals were killed in frontier violence & many more died from introduced diseases is tragic but nowhere near a genocide.

1994 was the year all States and Territories introduced a public holiday on the 26th of January. The First Fleet arrived at Port Botany on May 13th, 1787, Arthur Phillips raised the English Flag on the 26th of January 1788 at Sydney Cove. It wasn’t an invasion until British soldiers began their genocide campaign after they settled in to what they considered to be Terra Nullius.

No, they left England on 13 May 1787 and arrived at Botany Bay between 18-20 January 1788.

Thanks for bringing me up to date with historical fact. My point is the 26th was adopted in recent times, it’s not as if we danced around a May Pole to celebrate Australia when I was at school but we did have May Pole celebrations. Cheers.

How hard would it be to keep 26/1 as a public holiday for Reconciliation Day.

Plus add a new public holiday as National Day on 5 July, when our constitution was approved in the UK.

Darren Dower-Trindall11:41 am 28 Jan 23

We should change the date.
I’m sick of people trying to justify celebrating on the 26th, on that date, white people started the attempted Genocide of Aboriginal people. That’s a fact. It’s a date we should reflect on as a dark time. For all Australians. We can and should to better. Change the date so we can all celebrate.

What is your preferred date then? What date would you be happy with?

Darren Dower-Trindall11:39 am 28 Jan 23

I’d love to see an Australia were we all can feel free to celebrate the out great country without shame, I say change the date so me and my family can celebrate.

If our country was founded by forced colonisation and the 26th of January is a date that set rates the near-eradication of the Aboriginal People and their culture; if all these things happened As a direct result of what happened after that date, I don’t see a problem with changing the date, so they can see the broader Australian society really is sorry, no need for a sorry day, changing the date will show unity and love, if we change the date, we call can celebrate. And maybe we might just all get along abit better, it’s no wonder Aboriginal People do the things they do, I’d be pissed off too. And shame on the people for trying to justify the attempted genocide of Aboriginal People.
Learn some compassion and practice some peace and love.

I don’t have any shame around being Australian and celebrating Australia Day Darren. I mean shame for what? Are you saying present day Australia should feel shame for incidents that happened over 200 years ago? Because that’s plainly a ridiculous argument and a ridiculous point of view. How are modern day Australians responsible for anything that happened 15 to 20 generations ago? All those people are long dead and so are the resident indigenous from that time. My family have been Australian for 3 generations only so are my family likewise guilty of whatever the 1st fleet were? Again a silly argument and one only mounted by those that want to promote permanent victim hood in the indigenous population where there is none.

There was no “genicide.” There is no “genocide” Darren. Only those indigenous who want to be labelled permanent victims for events that happened so long ago that neither the so-called perpetrators or the so-called victims survive. Time to stop pushing race-based agendas Darren and move forward with the rest of Australia.

Darren Dower-Trindall11:35 am 28 Jan 23

I’m an Australian-Aboriginal Man.

I live in Balmain/Rozelle NSW.

I have an Aboriginal flag tattoo and a southern cross tattoo
I love this country,
I love all the people who live in this country.
I follow the wests tigers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
I love hanging with mates and celebrating this country.
I have many friends from many different races, Greek, Leb, Italian, Anglo-Australian, Indonesian, Filipino etc.
I’m as Australian as anyone can get.
I’m as multicultural and open-minded and as sensible a person can be.

I understand and accept that people feel upset about people wanting to change the date.

Buy I’d like you to take a second to understand that becauee of the events that transpired form from the date of 26th January, my Aboriginal ancestors have had it rough. Lots of lives lost, lots of rape and murder and racial discrimination.

It makes me sad that a country I love so much has a national day set on a date that is so hurtful to my ancestors. It’s crazy and it blows my mind how people don’t see a problem with this, even going so far as to try and justify celebrating in that date.

I mean imagine if we thru celebrations in Memorial Day 11th November how tone death that would be? It’s the same thing, and just be sue you may have had bad experiences with some Aboriginal people that doesn’t mean they are all bad people, maybe they are angry and do silly things of the rage they feel knowing that this country chooses to spit in the face of their history every year. I feel ashamed to say I’m Australian on the 26th of January because I see every year most people deciding to disrespect my people and their history.

By changing the date we loose nothing. But we gain everything, maybe we might just all get along better.

I hope one day we can change the date, so I can celebrate, so my family can celebrate, so my whole community won’t feel as tho they don’t matter, that’s the Australian I one day want to be a part of.

I love this country, just as much if not more then you.

Capital Retro4:59 pm 28 Jan 23

There were a family of talented rugby league plays named Trindall from Moree. Are you one of them?

Capital Retro10:33 am 31 Jan 23

I guess you weren’t.

Emotive Darren and only emotive. You have no argument.

The subject won’t go away because of self righteous, Opinionated, Narcissistic Journalists like yourself who keep bringing it up and fanning the flames creating segregation amongst every and all Australians of any color and creed hoping we will all turn on each other. It’s the lazy and a lack of insightful news reports by the media why the subject won’t go away.

Capital Retro1:52 pm 27 Jan 23

In Australia, a person is guilty of sedition if they intentionally urge another person to interfere, by force or violence, with lawful processes for an election of a member or members of a House of the Parliament, or a referendum.

Has Lidia Thorpe been arrested yet?

The antics of Lidia Thorpe will ensure that the No vote is successful

Capital Retro10:40 am 27 Jan 23

Zoya, you need to read some of Professor Geoffrey Blainey’s research on positive aspects of the colonization of Australia.

And on the subject of massacres, in recent times there have been two massacres in Queensland, one resulted in the stabbing deaths of eight children and one the death of 6 people (two were police officers). In both incidents, the alleged perpetrator was an indigenous person.

I don’t know why certain people and politicians (like the greens) want everyone to live in the past, and want people to live like they did over 200 years ago. Society has moved forward for everyone, including Aboriginal people. No one lives today like their ancestors did and it is not something to aim for. If you don’t like the Western lifestyle (introduced by the British) and you don’t want technology, medicine, housing, hospitals, electricity or welfare (or a functioning legal system) then you are free to go live in a cave in the bush, and set up your own tribal community. The rest of us are happy to live here, we think our society is pretty great, and we thank the British for it. Australia is recognised as one of the best countries in the world, and most of us are grateful for what we have and sick of hearing the complaints.

The Greens want an army of useful idiots, to enable them to rule the roost on the taxpayer dime

Why doesn’t anybody mention that white children were stolen from single white mothers as well around the same time by self minded religious hierarchy. Oh that’s right no-one needs to know. Those children and mothers were also mistreated.

Agree with you Brian. The thing about the aboriginal stolen generations is that it was done as a nation by our government in our name. It targeted all people of a certain heritage, so our entire nation has a responsibility for it.

With the white children stolen via forced adoptions, it was done by the churches, religious organisations rather than the government, so the general population doesn’t see it as a national responsibility. However there’s no doubt that the government supported those organisations and that they completely failed to support the biological mothers and fathers to enable them to keep their children. It saved our government money and provided children for those who wanted them. Those kids were a commercial commodity that brought in money and support for the churches.

There is not a loud voice by the white mothers and fathers as they’re still seen as having been responsible for their own situation, even though most were still children, minors. They were made to feel ashamed and to stay silent.

Capital Retro8:18 am 27 Jan 23

The narrative is that only indigenous children were stolen. White children were saved.

So you are saying that none of them were not abused or traumatised 100%, well you are very one eyed in saying they were the only ones were ‘Stolen’ not all white children were saved either. END OF STORY.

Capital Retro12:33 pm 27 Jan 23

I just read what I wrote and couldn’t see what you claim I said.

Yes there are certain segments of our community that like to always play the victim.

Capital Retro1:53 pm 27 Jan 23

Have you been watching Rabbit Proof Fence, again?

Yep, like Trump supporters.

By today’s standards, British culture in the 18th century was nasty and in many ways wrong.

By today’s standards, Aboriginal culture before colonisation was nasty and in many ways wrong.

If we are really interested in “truth”, as well as being so critical about our colonial history, we should also take an honest look at Aboriginal culture and stop celebrating it.

This is the most racist comment I have read all week. I think freebie government education was clearly wasted on some Canberrians.

Are you saying it is racist because you don’t like it and it goes against the narrative you choose to believe.

Or because it is factually wrong? In that case please point out where it is factually wrong?

A comment ‘we should take an honest look at Aboriginal culture and stop celebrating it’ meets the definition of prejudice /antagonism against a minority group. Which is a core part of the definition of racism.

Frankly, if you are trying to defend it you have no clue either. This voicing of racist sentiment is the worst of Australia.

Jia Kim,
How on earth do you claim that meets the definition of racism?

Unfortunately for you, facts aren’t racist.

By the definition you are trying to put forward, anyone that claims that the behaviour of the British was wrong by today’s standards is also racist.

Frankly, if you are trying to change the definition of racism to include any kind of objective critique of history, you make the term meaningless.

Surprised that the do-your-own-research crowd hasn’t looked up the definition of racism. I didn’t invent or change it. I just wrote it down.

Sorry if you fall on the wrong side of this definition, especially if you think you are not a racist.

And yes, facts such as disadvantaging one race, or failing to allow them parity, is also racist. These things continue to happen with the comment from Spiral.

You would have to be less than intelligent to think that the British have some kind of disadvantage and discrimination that results in loss of parity in Australia today.

Jia Kim,
You may have written part of the definition down but you didn’t manage in your rambling comment to logically explain how pointing out facts actually meets that definition.

And not sure how an individual can fall on the “wrong” side of a definition but your attempted ad hominem is lazy and transparent. Simply attempting to portray others as “racist” to discredit them without evidence does not bolster your argument.

“And yes, facts such as disadvantaging one race, or failing to allow them parity, is also racist. These things continue to happen with the comment from Spiral.”

Nothing remotely like this is contained in Spiral’s comment, he has asked for objective facts to be assessed rather that selectively applying today’s lens on history.

And you would have to be less than intelligent to not see the ridiculousness of wanting to redefine a pejorative term like “racism” by applying it to far less serious or non existent statements.

As above, if you try to change the definition of racism to include an objective viewing of history, you make the term meaningless.

Not sure what your are trying to say, or why a bunch of white men keep fishing in a story titled migrants.

But saying ‘we should take an honest look at Aboriginal culture and stop celebrating it’ is pure racist smear.

And trying to use logic and rationalism to justify racism is straight outta the 1920’s. What’s next: measuring brain sizes?

Oh, and do you really think that white people will be disadvantaged or discriminated against by this? seriously pathetic.

Where in any statements above has any poster outlined their own racial identity?

Once again you make assumptions without evidence because you think it bolsters your argument. It’s standard for those who can’t see beyond their narrow focus and need to pigeon everyone else into defined groups rather than recognising everyone as individuals.

Spirals comment was that if we want to look at the truth of history, we should do so with an objective lens.

Spiral says that just like British culture of the 18th century would not meet today’s standards, so too does the Indigenuous culture of the time.

That is purely factual.

Yet a lot of people like yourself want to ignore those negatives of Indigenuous culture to focus only on its positives whilst doing the exact opposite to British and early Australian culture.

If anyone’s doing the smearing, it’s you. And you only need to read your other comments to see that.

“And trying to use logic and rationalism to justify racism is straight outta the 1920’s. What’s next: measuring brain sizes”

Another strawman because you can’t engage in the topic with any sense of rational thought. No one said anything remotely like this. The whole point being the original and continued posts are not racist in the slightest.

Once again you try to conflate a statement and conflate it to something far worse (measuring brain sizes).

Seriously pathetic is a good description of your posts, with constantly attempting to shift the goalposts and multiple strawmen.

You are the one that is peddling racism and division, trying to dress it up and anything else is disgusting.

Have you ever stopped to think that the name Australia was coined by the British using the latin for southern land? So Indigenous Australian is an oxymoron. Those that disagree with Australia Day should come up with their own name of the country and speak their own language instead of using English.

Capital Retro4:31 pm 26 Jan 23

Before you get too excited Zoya, you should be aware of the latest Roy Morgan SMS Poll challenges your belief that the Change The Date campaign (I’d never heard of it before reading your latest) had already worked.

Nearly two-thirds of Australians (64%) say January 26 should be known as ‘Australia Day’, virtually unchanged on a year ago.

Wow, a self flaggelating article from Zoya on Australia day, what a surprise.

The problem with these types of articles is it is perfectly reasonable to recognise issues of the past yet still celebrate the truly great nation Australia is, which was only made possible by colonisation. That the benefits and opportunities created for all Australians are enormous.

And it’s easy to know that changing the date (to when?) will make absolutely no difference to either the lives of indigenous people, nor stop the constant whinging around colonisation itself. No date will appease this issue because the victim mentality is too ingrained.

Almost every nation today has gone through waves of invasions, conquerors and colonisers. To expect current Australians to take the blame for the actions of people hundreds of years ago is beyond ridiculous. Particularly when so many of those people are either recent migrants themselves, have ancestors who were similarly conquered or whose ancestors had no say in being sent here by force in the first place.

There will always be division as long as people like Zoya are continually unable to move beyond the past.

If you want to build a strong and modern Australia, you do it be recognising everyone’s equal and individual worth as a citizen of this country. Not by wanting to create special groups of people defined by their race or ancestors.

Well said, thank you.

You should also acknowledge that up until the 21st century invasion, colonisation & dispossession by force was how the human race did business. Most European & Asian countries suffered the same way.

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