Powerful: Calls for date change, treaty and reconciliation
For years, January 26 has been declared as a day to honour Australian traditions and unite a country that prides itself on inclusion, but for the traditional owners of this land, the date is a constant reminder of pain and trauma.
Over time, calls to change the date has sparked widespread debate with little action and as celebrations continue on January 26, it results in exactly what the day aims to avoid – dividing the nation.
Bundaberg’s Gidarjil managing director Dr Kerry Blackman said this beautiful place we all call home always was and will be Aboriginal land, something that needs to be recognised and acknowledged.
“For the First Australians, the original inhabitants and custodians of this ancient timeless land, the 26th of January, 1788, represents the three m’s … mayhem, massacre and murder,” Dr Blackman said.
“Recognition, respect and acknowledgment that this day is not a day of reconciliation (is required and) only when it is changed is when we can truly unite based on Australia owning the past together so we can own our future together.”
Calling for the Australian Government to change Australia Day from January 26 to a more inclusive date, Dr Blackman said the next step towards reconciliation was to form a treaty with its traditional custodians.
“A treaty is based on true reconciliation, respect and recognition and must be made up of many key points, including an assembly of first nations people,” Dr Blackman said.
“There must be acknowledgment that Australia was not settled, but brutally colonised, a land reform and changes to the land tenure arrangements, reparations, compensation and equitable benefit sharing and guaranteed representation in parliament.”
Dr Blackman said he anticipates the date will change within the next five years and until the time comes, Australia will not be an inclusive society.
“The date has to change if Australia wants to grow up and become a mature nation in the eyes of the international community or it will remain stagnant and stunted,” he said.
“I have a dream that one Day Australia will be a fair, equitable and just society for the First Australians that delivers truth, voice and treaty.
“The more we educate the wider community on the truth and the real history, the more ignorance is not an excuse to perpetuate racism, which is the biggest obstacle to true reconciliation.”
Referencing the former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Redfern speech, Dr Blackman said he believes it remains to be the most powerful speech of any modern day Australian leader.
Sharing his remedy as part of the Reconciliation ceremony, Dr Blackman said he hopes Australia can move forward on a united front, by changing the date.
“As part of true repentance and true reconciliation ceremony, I call on all my white brothers and sisters to walk together with us, talk together with us, do business together with us, start doing everything together with us and start moving forward together with us,” he said.
“We value the unique status of our Aboriginal peoples as the original owners and custodians of lands and waters across Australia – we recognise this land and its waters were invaded without treaty or consent.
“Reaffirming the human rights of our traditional owners, we respect and recognise continuing customary laws, belief and traditions.
“Through understanding the spiritual relationship between the land its first peoples we share and our desire to live in harmony in the future with them.
“Our Nation must have the courage to own the truth, to heal the wounds of its past so that we can move on together at peace with ourselves.
“Reconciliation must live in the hearts and minds of all Australians … many steps have been taken, many steps remain as we learn our shared histories.
“As we walk the journey of healing, we leaders of our region apologise and express our sorrow and sincere regret for the injustices of the past atrocities.
“Now we seek forgiveness and ask for the traditional owners to accept our apology and to forgive us for the past wrongs done by the British Colonisation.”
The NewsMail requested comment from Federal Minister for indigenous Australian Ken Wyatt, but no response was received.