While most Australians will spend next Tuesday barbequing, drinking and listening to Triple J, indigenous activist Ken Canning will be hosting an Invasion Day March in Redfern, Sydney.
Poet and member of Indigenous Social Justice Association, Ken believes that Australia day should not be celebrated on January 26. “To have it on the very day that became the commencement of . . . the loss of language, the loss of culture, children being stolen, people put on missions, human rights abuses for 228 years . . . I don’t think its appropriate for people to get out and celebrate on that day.”
Ken adds that he is not against the concept of Australia day, but rather the choice of date. He suggests that a national holiday could be celebrated on the 1st January – in memory of Federation – while Jan 26 should remain a day to commemorate the invasion and suffering of Aboriginal Australians.
He points out that the day could be used to remember the Frontier Wars, and Aboriginal men and women who bravely fought and died for their land when the Europeans landed. “Maybe the 26th January is a day where we should mourn the loss of our people, acknowledge that warfare was declared on our people, but also acknowledge the bravery with which we defended our lands,” Ken told ANN. “In my own traditional land, the wars lasted 40 years – I’m proud of that, but I can’t say it. It’s not in the history books.”
Ken also blames the education system for the ignorance of most non-Indigenous Australians towards Aboriginal history and issues. He outlines forced removal of indigenous people and deaths in custody as the biggest issues facing the community today. He also blames these concerns for the staggering suicide rates among the indigenous population, which remain among some of the highest in the world.
“The removal of indigenous people from communities, from an indigenous point of view, that’s devastating,” said Ken sadly. “It’s like a death sentence . . . you don’t hear about this in any other country in the world.”
This is yet another way in which the celebration of Australia Day could change, argues Ken. He would like to see it as a day to reflect on history, but also learn from Indigenous communities – about looking after the environment and each other.
“But we don’t blame the crowd, I’m not into that,” he assures. “If you’re decent enough to come to our rallies, you should be treated with respect.”
The protest will take place at 10am on 26 January.