I work for Culture Is Life, a not-for-profit combating suicide and self-harm among young First Australians – nine times the rate in the general population. As a nation we need urgently to ask ourselves, how can we counter the crippling despair overcoming so many of our young people? We believe some answers lie in strengthening their connections to culture, community and history. But there’s another ingredient we can’t supply – empathy and respect from our fellow Australians.

The US group Black Lives Matter formed in response to police killings of African Americans. Conservative elements reacted by twisting the obvious meaning of the phrase. Their rhetorical tactic, boiled down, is to assert “they’re saying white lives don’t matter”. But no, they’re not. They’re saying “our lives have value too”. If some police routinely approach black citizens predisposed to deadly force, something is terribly wrong.

In Australia we’ve seen a similar reaction to changing the date of Australia Day. It’s been labelled unpatriotic, divisive and an attempt to denigrate modern Australia. This would be ludicrous were it not coming from sources as significant as our Prime Minister. In his recent video address, Mr Turnbull professed to be “disappointed by those who want to change the date …” whom he said are “seeking to take a day that unites … Australians and turn it into one that would divide us”.

This is flat out wrong and it’s another shabby bit of rhetorical “twister”. No one I know is calling for Australia Day to be abolished or seeking to create division. On the contrary, we’ve been consistently saying we want a national holiday, we should celebrate our achievements, we should come together. We’re also saying “please choose another day”. This particular date, far from unifying Australia, marks an anniversary that is for us tragic, painful and distressing. It began two centuries of land theft, massacres, epidemics, family destruction and discrimination with legacies of entrenched disadvantage that remain vividly present.

If that were part of your family history, how would you feel to see your neighbours celebrate? Aboriginal Australians have formally mourned on this date since 1938. The public holiday on the 26th was created 24 years ago. Mr Turnbull’s former colleague, Ian MacFarlane, last year joined the call for a different day. He reminded everyone that previously the holiday “moved around like a hockey puck” to secure a long weekend. No one cared.

A 2016 poll found only 43 per cent of Australians knew what the holiday commemorates. The notion this date is somehow sacred to Australians is very recent myth-making. A party on this date tramples on feelings of immense grief among many Australians. It fails to respect and care for our young people. It damages them. How is that “unifying”? And how is a request that Australia respectfully consider an alternative date when we might all join in a celebration something that “would divide us”.

Aboriginal communities witness parties on this date as celebrating the crushing of their people and culture. That’s how it looks. That’s how it feels. That’s just a fact. If some Australians – even the Prime Minister – can’t show us the respect to acknowledge that, then they’re saying we don’t matter. If that’s the case, perhaps we’ve got problems as deep as those in the United States.

Belinda Duarte, a Wotjobaluk woman, is CEO of Culture is Life.

2018 This article was originally published in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald 


Sign up for our newsletter

Be the first to know about new projects and the latest from us.
We care about your data in our privacy policy.
Last chance to register for our FREE WEBINAR tomorrow: Wellbeing for Teachers and Students. Over 80 teachers have already registered so don't miss out 👩🏽‍🏫👩🏾‍🎓👩🏽‍💻👨🏽‍💻
 
Jump online with @cultureislife__’s Aboriginal educators and the curriculum writers of the #BackToNatureSeries to explore a #FirstNations perspective on improving your own sense of wellbeing and enhancing the health of your staff and students 🍂🍃🌳🍃🍂

ℹ️ Link to register in bio.

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv #CultureIsLife #FirstNationsCurriculum #IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander
This weekend, Seed Mob is hosting the 2022 Heal Country Summit. The Summit is for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander young people to get together to share, learn, discuss, plan & inspire one another 👣 👩🏽‍💻🧑🏾‍💻👨🏿‍💻👣 

The hope is that friendships blossom, networks are made, important conversations are had & plans are made to build a grassroots network of volunteers that run campaigns to protect our #land, #culture & communities from #ClimateChange & #FossilFuel extraction 🌿🍂🌏

Follow @seedmob to stay in the loop.
Check out our fresh website!!! 👆🏽🥳 Back to Nature #EducationalResources are now freely available for teachers to access on our new education platform! 

Jump over to our brand new shiny website > education to see our education projects. Create a login to access resources we have developed with our incredible team & partners! 🥳 ✍️ 🌱 🖤

All of our resources are Aborignal led, written and guided to inspire educators to creatively & respectfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, peoples and cultures in schools 👣

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv @abcindigenous 
#CultureIsLife #BackToNatureAU #Education #Schools #Resources #FirstNationsCurriculum #FirstNations #Education #Curriculum #Learning
#IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander #ABCEducation
In the final episode of #BackToNatureSeries we meet #EasternArrernte Elder, Paul Williams, Apmereke-artyweye, and his cousin, Damian Ryder, Kwertegerle mape, Traditional Custodians. 

Their advice is simple: wherever you go, talk to the land 🍂🍃🌿🌱👣👣👣

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv #CultureIsLife #BackToNatureAU #Education #Schools #Resources #FirstNationsCurriculum #FirstNations #Curriculum #Learning #IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander #ABCEducation #Arrernte
At #BulgandryAboriginalArtSite on the #HawkesburyRiver, NSW we are welcomed to #Darkinjung Country by Gavi Duncan, an artist and #Gomeroi man.

Gavi shares stories of his #Country, creation and how we are all linked together as one.

#BackToNatureEducation materials for Levels 2-10 are launching this week!!

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv #CultureIsLife #BackToNatureAU #Education #Schools #Resources #FirstNationsCurriculum #FirstNations #Curriculum #Learning #IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander #ABCEducation #NSWParks @nswnationalparks
In northeast #Tasmania, #tebrakunna - #larapuna Country, we meet #trawlwulwuy woman Emma Lee. For the trawlwulwuy there’s no notion of humans as separate from anything else in nature: everything is connected by the thread of kinship.

#BackToNatureEducation materials explore concepts of #kinship and how #teachers can relate these themes into the #classroom for a deeper respect and understanding of people, culture and #Country. 

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv #CultureIsLife #BackToNatureAU #Education #Schools #Resources #FirstNationsCurriculum #FirstNations #Curriculum #Learning #IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander #ABCEducation
Meet #Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Di Kerr, as she sits with Indi Clarke in a special place on Wurundjeri Country. Aunty Di shares the importance of acknowledging #Country and paying respects to ancestors and #Elders.

For teachers wanting to share these learnings with their students the #BackToNatureSeries #EducationResources are being launched next week!

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv @indi.__.__ #CultureIsLife #BackToNatureAU #Education #Schools #Resources #FirstNationsCurriculum #FirstNations #Education #Curriculum #Learning #IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander #ABCEducation
Meet Senior Aboriginal Man, Uncle Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien. Mickey is a descendant of the #Kaurna and #Narrunga peoples. 

In Episode 3 of #BacktoNatureSeries Uncle Mickey shares the importance of the idea of ‘Twoness’, which encapsulates for him the importance of reciprocity and mutual benefit.

@mediastockade @jane.threshold @abctv #CultureIsLife #BackToNatureAU #Education #Schools #Resources #FirstNationsCurriculum #FirstNations #Education #Curriculum #Learning #IndigenousEducation #Aboriginal #TorresStraitIslander #ABCEducation