Australia Day continues as an open wound for Australians
Published: 25 January 2021
On the eve of Australia Day, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) calls for the date of the national day to be changed to one which is inclusive of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians.
In a joint statement, AASW National Vice President Linda Ford and AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board Director, Professor Susan Green stated that Australia Day continues to be an open wound on the Australian landscape that will not be resolved until a new date is found, which truly unifies all Australian peoples.
Ms Ford said that for many Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians, the 26th of January and what it stands for is a day of mourning, not celebration.
“The Australia Day date was proclaimed at a time when Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were not considered Australian people, the lack of recognition of this history and unwillingness to change the date continues to disenfranchise the First Nations people of this country.”
“Many Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people want to celebrate being an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians, recognizing their culture, history, strengths, resilience and survival, but Australia day continues to represent the beginning of Western colonisation and the devastation that this continues to have on Australia's first peoples.”
“Unfortunately, the denial of the history prevents the unity of citizenship wanted by the First Nations people of this country. Not changing the date keeps us stuck in the past, all of us,” she said.
Professor Green said the current Australia Day is more aligned to marking Federation, which should be celebrated on 1 January.
“In the past each colony had their own date and different names, such as Anniversary Day and Foundation Day. The date has changed many times before to be more reflective of current times, and it can change again.”
“Changing the date would be an important step toward reconciliation and also demonstrate that Australia is willing to acknowledge our past, heal wrongs and move into a future that recognises, embraces and really celebrates all we have become.”
“As social workers, we will continue to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian leaders, groups and communities towards reconciliation. Central to this, is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian leadership and enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian voices to be heard and respected,” Professor Green said.