Australia Day, or Invasion Day, is a significant date for the people who inhabit The Land Down Under. On this day, they celebrate the historic voyage of the First Fleet towards its ultimate destination – Australia. As a result of this venture, this country has a rich history and identity as well as a powerful multicultural society.
January 26th, as a national holiday of The Land Down Under, is recognized as a day of unity and brotherhood. On this date, many nations in Australia honour their uniqueness inside the community. They appreciate the fact that the country is a melting pot of different cultures.
The essence of Australia Day is not only in the festivities that glorify the history of the smallest continent and the changes that have occurred since the first urban settlers arrived. The spirit behind the creation of this holiday can be traced back to the resistance of the tribes who lived in Australia’s outback. Their fight against the European’ intruders’ made them memorizing this event as a not so bright moment of their history.
More on the history of indigenous Australians read below:
Significance of Invasion Day Has Changed Over Time
Although the landing of the First Fleet took place more than two hundred years ago, January 26 has been celebrated as an official national holiday only since 1994. In fact, that’s not the exact date of the landing, but a few days earlier. This date is chosen because, since then, there are the first official documents about the consent of ships and settlers’ activities.
New South Wales (NSW) took the first step towards the nationalization of this date. On the thirtieth anniversary of the landing, more precisely in 1818, the first celebration was formally marked. This was a modest event, done with a triumphant salute of 30 guns, nothing more.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the landing, only NSW celebrated this date again. But now, the government of this state recognized it as the first real national holiday. In the next 50 years, other states and their capitals embraced this holiday.
Importance of National Holiday
Since the beginning of the twentieth century and the Commonwealth of Australia’s proclamation, there was a campaign to declare the day of disembarkation a holiday throughout the country. After many problems, success was achieved in 1935. At that time, all Australian states agreed to unite, with a common name and celebration date.
It was not until the 1990s that the government finally realized the significance of this holiday for Australia’s national identity. Since 1994, all states and territories have been celebrating the national holiday on January 26th. Since then, this celebration has been a symbol of togetherness and the desire to make the smallest continent even greater.
In the 1980s, even some regulatory bodies, such as the National Australia Day Committee, were set up to support this celebration. The aim was to promote the importance of this day, but its significance to the natives seemed somewhat neglected. What white people considered a settlement, natives understood as an invasion. This division still exists today.
Why Invasion Day?
Settlers stepping on Australian land didn’t find a desolate, uninhabited area. They were greeted by Aboriginal people who were not thrilled by these ‘intruders’ but didn’t disturb them. On the other hand, white people originally from England had different plans. Sadly, these ideas have changed very little throughout history.
The goal was to marginalize the natives because the whites considered them unworthy. The settlers didn’t know back then, but that was far from the truth. Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest and most diverse on the planet. You can find out more at this link.
While various nations have inhabited Australia over the years, Aborigines have remained in the dark, mostly disenfranchised or assimilated. In most cases, against their will. So it’s clear why they have a different name for Australia Day. For them, it’s Mourning or Invasion Day since it doesn’t remind them of nice things.
Did Something Change?
In previous decades, there were Aboriginal protests against this holiday. Not because whites are forbidden to celebrate it, but because it was a chance for indigenous people in Australia to raise their voice. They did experience the worst of civilization. Nothing can make up losses and oppression, but efforts can be made to make the natives live well today, enjoying all the rights to a dignified life.
The biggest ‘uprising’ took place in 1988. Since then, the natives have celebrated January 26 in their own way. There are concerts, marches, and peaceful protests where they only demand what has been taken from them – the right to dignity and national identity.
It seems that things are getting better. The efforts of giving Aboriginal rights back are stronger than ever. Although the infamous name of Invasion Day remained rooted in these people, they celebrate it today. But the descendants of the natives do that in different ways. In fact, on this holiday, Aborigines remember everything taken from them after the settlers landed.
Australia has always been a country of newcomers. The first settlers were English immigrants. Today, there are many areas of the country that are marked with significant multicultural heritage. In fact, Invasion Day should be a celebration of that.
Aboriginal people are becoming more and more involved in everyday life in Australia. A certain percentage of them still reject modernization, probably pressed by the burden of the past. But there is a good will to cut this historical burden. It doesn’t mean that some issues should be forgotten, as no nation should neglect its history. But that it’s about time to overcome them for the common good.
Over the years, there have been those who have realized the injustice done to the Aborigines. Every culture should give a part of itself, but also accept the differences of other nations. That creates the unity and peaceful co-existence of different peoples, which should be the point of every national holiday.