Listening and Learning this Australia Day

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Twitter brings out the best and the worst in people and the contentious issues invariably generate the most extreme of views. In the lead-up to Australia Day, the campaign to #ChangeTheDate certainly earns the notoriety of being a contentious issue.

Twitter exploded on Thursday 17 January, with journalist Brooke Boney (@boneybrooke) trending because of comments she made on the Today show about why she believes Australia Day should not be celebrated on January 26.

Brooke Boney is a Gamilaroi Gomeroi woman from Northern New South Wales. She grew up in the Hunter Valley on Wanaruah country and is the first Indigenous person to join a commercial breakfast television show.

Brooke spoke about her love for Australia, but personally doesn’t celebrate Australia Day.

“I can’t separate the 26th of January from the fact that my brothers are more likely to go to jail than they are to go to school. Or that my little sisters and my mum are more likely to be beaten and raped than anyone else’s sisters or mum,” she said.

The evidence supports her statements.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for 27 per cent of Australia’s prison population, according the bureau of statistics.

Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The response was swift. It was, on the one hand, supportive and affirming. But it was equally nasty, personal, racist, and troubling.

Then, later that evening, I saw this tweet from Toby Adams (@tobyadams_).

The #ChangeTheDate conversation would look very different if people just listened to hear, rather than listened to respond.

It made me reflect on my own journey, and how I might have felt about #ChangeTheDate ten years ago.

Because I only really started listening back in May 2010, when I attended my first cultural respect workshop. Over two days I felt challenged, attacked, angry, sad, frustrated, ignorant, and ashamed. Then, as I worked through those feelings, I started to feel aware, curious, hopeful, inspired, empowered.

It has been a long and rocky journey ever since. And it is true to say, the more I learn, the less I know.

We are all on our own journey when it comes to reconciliation. We are all in different places. It would do Australia well to take Toby Adams advice – listen to hear. Then, once we have heard, we will be in a much better position to engage in the conversation. Respectfully.

Resources and Reflection

January 26. Australia Day. Invasion Day. Day of Mourning. Survival Day.

It is all these things and more.

If you are interested in learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture, and reconciliation, here are some resources I can personally recommend:

  • Starting on Monday 21 January, NITV will be broadcasting #AlwaysWillBe – a week of programming that showcases the strength, courage, and resilience of Indigenous people.
  • The anthology ‘Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia’, edited by Anita Heiss (@AnitaHeiss), gives voice to over 50 Aboriginal people living in contemporary Australia.
  • Griffith Review 60, ‘First Things First’, is a wide-ranging collection of views about the Australian response to reconciliation, with a particular focus on the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
  • The IndigenousX blog https://indigenousx.com.au/blogx/ and rotating Twitter account @IndigenousX, is a great source of information and commentary that highlights the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.