January 26 is, as it always has been, a day of great contrast. On one hand, it’s a collective celebration of what it means to truly be Australian, but on the other, it’s a painful reminder that the very foundations upon which our identity has been built were fractured from the start. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 26 January marks the beginning of the dispossession of land, violence, massacres and genocide. The calls to change the date have been echoing for years, but still, the calendar remains untouched.
Australia Day, Survival Day, Invasion Day whatever label you attach to January 26, one notion cannot be ignored. We, as a nation, can do more. On a day of remembrance and calm contemplation, we take a look at organisations and movements committed to recognising the wrongs of the past and making bold steps towards progressive action. After all, it Always Was, Always Will Be Aboriginal Land.
If you want to stand in solidarity with First Nations people this year, turn your attention to the initiatives helping to break the mould. Donate, educate and advocate for the hard work these community leaders are putting forward to ensuring Australia’s future is a more culturally rich and inclusive one. Here is a list of five organisations worthy of support not only on January 26 but every day of the year.
ANTaR is a national advocacy organisation focused specifically on the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and elders, the organisation provides a voice for the community to share their aspirations and concerns with the wider country. Without organisations as committed and ingrained as ANTaR, many Indigenous communities would continue to be overlooked in Australian culture, a great disservice, not only to those communities but to the entire national identity.
2. Common Ground
Common Ground is a First Nations-led not-for-profit that works to create a harmonious community that respects and acknowledges First Nations knowledge, culture and stories. Working with a range of partners, collaborators and Indigenous communities, Common Ground is focused on creating change in the education system and the justice system. The organisation draws on First Nations community, creativity and innovation, by initiating projects that bring awareness and acknowledgement to the powerful and culturally significant work of Indigenous Australians.
3. First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria
The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is a movement aimed at providing a voice to those First Nations people that have been silenced for generations. An independent and democratically elected body, the organisation represents Traditional Owners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria. Working tirelessly to negotiate a Treaty between First Nations people and the State Government, members are helping to continue a national conversation that desperately needs to be addressed.
4. Healing Foundation
While it’s convenient to pretend that the forced removal of children from their families was an act of bygone times, the reality is much closer than we’d care to admit. Indigenous Australians are still coming to terms with the ongoing trauma caused by these actions and organisations such as The Healing Foundation help to rebuild lives. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation partners with communities to address the lasting impacts of forced separation, a far-reaching issue that continues to damage families to this day.
5. Clothing the Gaps
One of the most well-known and loved First Nations focused organisations in the country, Clothing The Gaps is leading the charge in a visual way. The Victorian Aboriginal led and controlled, and the majority Aboriginal-owned social enterprise was co-founded by Laura Thompson (Gunditjmara) and Sarah Sheridan (non-Indigenous). With staple clothing items that help to fund the impactful work of the Clothing The Gaps Foundation, this enterprise not only supports the First Nations community, but the artists that define the next generation of members.
What is Australia Day and why do we celebrate it?
January 26 marks the 1788 date that 11 convict ships from Great Britain landed at what is now Port Jackson in New South Wales. Marking the beginning of recognised colonisation of Australia, the date became a national public holiday in 1994, however, there has been conjecture over the celebrations for decades.
Why is there tension surrounding Australia Day?
For many First Nations people, January 26 doesn't represent a day of celebration. Many First Nations people see the date as the beginning of dispossession, violence, cultural desecration and separation of families. As a result, some people may refer to January 26 as Invasion Day, Survival Day and Day of Mourning.