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Why I don't support changing the date of Amnesia Day

  • 23 January 2017


I don't know many activists within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community who don't experience a feeling of dread each January. We go through the excitement that is the birth of the New Year only to run head-first into the wall of stress and emotional labour that is dealing with another 'Australia Day'.

And yes, I choose to put quotation marks around 'Australia Day' because within the Indigenous community I am much more likely to hear it referred to as 'Invasion Day' and 'Survival Day'.

This is not news to a lot of Australians, who then get offended and so we tend to get into these exhausting and repetitive conversations every single year. And they are repetitive.

I am also a fan of the term 'Amnesia Day', because not only is there a deeply embedded amnesia in this country which forgets injustices such as 'terra nullius', massacres, the Stolen Generations and so forth, but the conversations we have on these things each year seem to be forgotten by the next year and the 'proud Australians' again expect Indigenous people to happily assimilate into the festivities.

It's therefore been an interesting few week. It started with the release of the annual Meat and Livestock Association ad promoting the eating of lamb around Australia Day.

Given the Association's ads in previous years, which seemed to promote jingoism, racism and sexism more than they did meat products — not to mention the fact that a couple of months ago, a leaked script showed it being considered so offensive that they couldn't find any Aboriginal people willing to be in the cast — my hopes were not high.

Thankfully, they did alter the script somewhat but the result remained divisive. While many applauded its positive attempt to show diversity as well as completely omit any reference to 'Australia Day', I echo the thoughts of other Aboriginal commentators such as Nakkiah Lui and Luke Pearson that the outright erasure of Invasion and Frontier violence was on the nose.

The ad completely omitted why it is that we protest in the first place. I was relived and amused therefore when the artists from Cope ST Collective released what they felt was a more accurate telling of the story, while also promoting their views that the date of celebration needed to be changed.


"I can only conclude from all this that changing the date would be little more than celebrating the invasion and genocide