Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day: What's in a name?
Australia Day is Australia’s national day commemorating January 26, 1788, the date on which Captain Arthur Phillip raised the flag of Great Britain and proclaimed a colonial outpost of the British Empire in Port Jackson, later Sydney Cove.
Though the day had been marked formally as ‘Foundation Day’ in the early years of the colony in New South Wales, the collective nation of Australia didn’t formally begin until federation on New Year’s Day, 1901.
Discussions about holding a national day were raised in the early 1900s and by 1935 all Australia states and territories had adopted the term ‘Australia Day’. However it wasn’t until 1994 that the whole country began to celebrate Australia Day on January 26 with a national public holiday.
What do we celebrate?
To many, Australia Day is a day of celebration of the values, freedoms and pastimes of our country. To some, it represents new beginnings and gaining citizenship in a country of relative peace and freedom. To others, it is a day to spend at community events or at a barbeque with family, friends and a game of backyard cricket.
For some Australians, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, January 26 is not a day of celebration, but is seen as a day which commemorates the invasion by British settlers of lands already owned.
A day of mourning:
In 1938, on the 150th anniversary celebrations, William Cooper, a member of the Aboriginal Progressive Association, and other activists met and held a 'Day of Mourning and Protest'. This event included a silent protest march and a conference aimed at securing national citizenship and equal rights for Indigenous people.
This also includes recognition of the violence of the Frontier Wars, a period of conflict between settlers and Australia's Indigenous peoples, which lasted from 1788 up until the time around the Coniston massacre in 1928.
Invasion Day is also seen as an opportunity to assert the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. Each year, marches are held in cities around Australia protesting the 'celebration' of Australia Day and calling for sovereignty and social justice for Indigenous Australians.
For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Australia Day is also an opportunity to recognise the survival of our people and our culture. Despite colonisation, discrimination and comprehensive inequalities, we continue to practise our traditions, look after the land and make our voices heard in the public sphere. We survive.