Reflections on Australia Day

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Fiona Hardie, Chair of Hardie Grant Media, recently encouraged our staff to consider how 26 January makes our First Nation’s people feel. Here’s an edited version.

Fiona Hardie

As Australia Day, a designated public holiday that marks the anniversary of the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet, approaches, let’s reflect on the different emotions this day invokes, and why these occur. We might ask what’s the purpose of a national day, what does this chosen date symbolise, and what’s behind the strong feelings people seem to be developing about Australia Day?  
As a result of our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), and through our involvement in CareerTrackers, the intern program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that we participate in, Hardie Grant is taking active steps to raise awareness and help create change, including Reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 
From this experience, we know that not only does Australia Day have a negative significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but with the growing discussion about changing the date, this period also becomes an emotionally heightened and tumultuous time. It is important, I think, to be mindful of this when you discuss and engage with the subject of Australia Day – be aware that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people find being the subject of that discussion highly unsettling. 

An Indigenous man and a young boy playing didgeridoos Photo: Cicely Binford (Creative Commons)

There are many insightful resources that explain why ‘Australia Day’ is ‘Survival Day’ for many First Nation’s people. Creative Spirits has published a comprehensive view of Australia Day’s history exploring why it is a day of mourning for many. National Indigenous Television (NITV), broadcast by SBS, has also covered the “It’s time for change” campaign by youth self-harm and suicide prevention organisation, Culture is Life, which gained real traction in 2018.  

Finally, for those seeking to gain a deeper insight and perspective, and those who want to this year spend Australia Day doing something different, there are some great festivals you can attend. Two of note are Share the Spirit Festival at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne, and Yabun Festival, which takes place at Victoria Park in Camperdown in Sydney.  

Fiona Hardie is Chair of Hardie Grant Media and co-founder of the Hardie Grant group. 

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