‘Naranan Australia Rememberance Day
A True Day to Remember’
By Michel Paul Tuomy
Australia Day is a day for mainstream Australia to celebrate everything that is grand about our nation. The yachts on Sydney Harbour, watched over by the throngs of our people who flock to the best vantage spot to take in the spectacular scenery.
And across our country families and friends come together for barbecues, as former Prime Minister John Howard famously said to be relaxed and comfortable. But how do we make this joyous day for mainstream Australia into a day for our original Indigenous Aborigines?
An Australia Day which is an inclusive day for our Indigenous population and those of us who support our original people’s struggle for recognition and human rights.
Aggrieved Australian Aborigines have two names for Australia Day – Invasion Day and Survival Day. Personally I find Survival Day a more appropriate term for Australia Day than Invasion Day. Did the British and subsequently other cultures like Irish convicts and settlers, or the Chinese in the gold rush invade Australia?
Considering that our Aboriginal people had lived upon our land for sixty thousand years without contact with ‘white civilisation’, I can understand how sections of our aggrieved and politically wanton indigenous population call our national day Invasion Day.
I steer away from the term Invasion Day, because I believe cultural migration, like that which has built today’s multi-cultural society, is reflective of the human trait to ‘discover’ and inhabit other lands.
Yet I do sympathise and understand the term Invasion Day, because the official term for our national day Australia Day fails in my opinion to properly recognise our first people’s ownership of their land.
I also believe when the British came to Australia, they were a ‘less civilised civilisation’, than that of our Indigenous Aboriginal population that practice corroboree and had an understanding to land that was more advanced than those British that came to conquer our first people.
I was recently speaking to a friend of mine who is an Indigenous Aboriginal elder up north, Larrakia elder Rob Mills, who I know to be a very laidback and intelligent person, who conducts cultural tours on his land and who also is a quite prolific musician.
On Rob’s website there is a photo of him placing his hand in front of the face of a whitefella, unfamiliar with this custom I asked him whether he was a Christian and he was baptising the whitefella into his culture?
My friend Rob became very angry and showed me a side of his personality that I had never seen before - anger and indignation that he felt for all the wrongs cast against his people.
When I asked what the custom was really about, Rob calmed down very quickly, due to the trust in our relationship. Rob told me placing a hand in front of someone’s face, was up in his country a greeting when his people met people whom they had not met before, a sign for peace and trust.
Now recalling Noel Pearson’s recent eulogy at Gough Whitlam’s funeral, I felt a sense of pride for black Australia. Noel Pearson was a man who took his ‘moment in the sun’ to recall the principals of the Whitlam Government that were a government to really champion Indigenous Aboriginal rights, after the Liberal Party Prime Minister Billy McMahon supported the Indigenous Aborigines a right to vote in the 1967 Referendum.
And forty years on from the Whitlam government of which Noel Pearson spoke of the struggle for recognition which still continues today.
Considering my friend Rob Mill’s anger and Mr. Pearson’s eulogy to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam - how could we continue to build bridges, so we can truly celebrate our nationhood on our national day of Australia Day?
On my birthday on Thursday December 10th 2009, with my sister I attended a talk at the Melbourne Convention Centre by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The following day the date on the front page of ‘The Age’, read not Friday December 11th 2009, but Friday November 11th 2009 – giving us a second Remembrance Day in that year.
The possibilities of having two Rememberance Days in Australia? An International Rememberance Day for November 11th to recall with solemn requiem Armistice Day to end World War 1. And to my understanding a January 26th Australia Day - Survival Day to be known as ‘Naranan Australian Remembrance Day’.
So we can consider with respect the wrongs cast against our original people and also consider with respect the character of their nation and the nation of which we have together grown to become.
January 26th each year– not Australia Day, Invasion Day or Survival Day – rather Naranan Australian Remembrance Day - a true bran nue day for our original indigenous Aboriginal and all inter-cultural peoples.
Michel Paul Tuomy & Delta Lea Goodrem are part ofa team of screenwriters of a film in pre-production ‘Our Progressive Corroboree – Our Meeting Place’.