Australia Day – 2021

Should Australia Day on the 26th of January be changed to a new date which has a positive meaning for Aboriginal people and properly acknowledges and respects them as the First Nations of this land?  Absolutely Yes, we must talk about and embrace this positive change.

We spent last night in a special group of family and friends to reflect on this question, as an “act” of love and appreciation – expressing our thoughts and listening to our kid’s ideas. 

In the meantime, while the celebration date has yet to change, we take the 26th of January as an opportunity to reflect on Australian Identity – to understand its paradoxes and understand how it has been built from the nation’s history – in all its beauty and ugliness. Today we ask ourselves how we too can evolve from this, how we can make our positive contributions to Australia and keep learning about this wonderful place we all love to call home.  

The 26th of January is the date that Capitan Arthur Phillip arrived in 1788 to “claim” a continent that was already inhabited by Aboriginal people. Of course, from an Aboriginal perspective this date feels like not so much a “Foundation Day” but rather an “Invasion Day”. Nowadays, it is also a happy day for many immigrants when they are officially accepted as new Australian Citizens. As a nation of many people, we understandably have mixing feelings about the current date.

Our identities are expressed via our everyday lives – in our choices, interactions, friendships, the symbols we adopt and our feelings of belonging, or otherwise… The Arts have a critical role to help us to understand who we are – both by exploring our own feelings and helping us to understand the perspectives of others. 

So, on this 26th day of January – yet another Australia Day, here are some suggestions of amazing Australian films and books which have helped me to understand and feel more connected to Australia. In these works I have found some of the multiple Australian histories that, along with all our individual stories, act to shape our shared Australian Identity. Truly worthy watching and reading: The films “Australian Dream”, and “Ladies in Black”, and the books: “The True Story of The Kelly Gang”, “My Place”, and the play “Men Without Wives”. The last two being written by Western Australian female writers. Thank you Meu Amor Geoffrey Drake-Brockman for presenting these books to me. Details of these fine works are….

“Australian Dream”, 2019 documentary film by Stan Grant and Daniel Gordon about Adam Goodes.
“Ladies in Black”, 2018 drama film directed by Bruce Beresford. starring Angourie Rice.
“The True Story of The Kelly Gang” 2000 novel by Peter Carey, about the life of Ned Kelly.
“My Place” 1987 autobiography by Sally Morgan.
“Men Without Wives” 1938 play by Henrietta Drake-Brockman.

Thanks also to my beloved son Jobim for your insightful comment last night: Australian movies must showcase not only how Aboriginal people were mistreat in the past, but highlight that the problem persists in the present.  

As a new immigrant I feel excited and privileged to be living in this time of positive transformation! On 1st of January 2021, The Australian National Anthem “Advance Australia Fair” had its official lyrics changed from “for we are young and free” to “for we are one and free” a powerful symbolic change of a single word to acknowledge that Aboriginal people have cared for and occupied this land for over 65.000 years. Always was, always will be, their land. We can only become “one” when we embrace Aboriginal culture and history.  In the words of another famous song: “We are one but we are many” (from “I Am Australian” 1987 by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton).

Happy Australian Identity!

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