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Australia Day Speech 2018 - Aunty Kerri Douglas

At a community event on Australia Day 2018, guest speaker Aunty Kerri Douglas pondered the question – Is it Australia Day or Invasion Day? As an Aboriginal women who identifies as a Dja Dja Wurrung and Bangerang Traditional Owner, Aunty Kerri shared her opinion on why she believes 26 January is Survival Day, whether the date is changed the date or not.

Hello, my name is Kerri Douglas. I am a mother, wife and daughter. I am also a proud Aboriginal woman, an Elder, and a Traditional Owner identifying as Dja Dja Wurrung and Bangerang.

Is it Australia Day? Or is it Invasion Day?

This day has many titles depending on an individual’s point of view.

I’m confused! I’m confused because I don’t know if I should be celebrating today as a proud Australian.

I’m confused because I don’t know if I should be wailing with grief for all the injustices that have happened in the past to my Aboriginal ancestors.

I’m confused as to why there are so many people out there who may not be from an Aboriginal background who feel that they have the right to speak on our behalf on changing Australia Day celebrations to another day or not.

I’m confused as to why one date can cause so much angst, bullying, lateral violence, political gain and point scoring.

I personally see this day as Survival day.

To me this day is representing that Australia has a history, a white history. But Australia also has a black history. Today can be a day of conflict to many of our first nation’s people. I am here to give my point of view. You may not agree with what I am sharing but that’s ok. We are all entitled to have an opinion.

I am also not here to place blame on anyone.

I am proud of who I am and what I have been able to achieve. I also still have much more achieving to do. I believe that my family have helped to shape me into the person that I am. They give me strength.

Yes, I am a proud Aboriginal woman and I cannot say that enough. But there is another side of me. My non-Aboriginal heritage is English. My mother told me when I was little that we came out around the time of the first fleet. She could not remember if that was as free settlers or as convicts. If it wasn’t for White settlement and colonisation my life would have been extremely different.

I have an Aunt who gives me strength. She also pulls me into line if I need it. She has told me that if I feel it, then do it. She is one of many great strong people in my family. I know that without some great trailblazers in my family then I would not be standing here today talking to you all. My great, great, great grandmother Caroline Malcolm who was removed from her traditional lands, wrote letters to Captain Page, a member of the Board of Protectorate of Aborigines, to apologize for her husband getting “mixed up in bad company”, and also wrote letters to give evidence of mistreatment of the Aboriginal people at Correnderk mission. She also moved her family from Correnderk to Cummerjunga to give them a better future and keep her man out of trouble!

Her son Caleb Morgan and his wife Anna Euphemia Bowden were instrumental in the Australian Aborigines League which was founded by William Cooper. Anna was part of a delegation in January 1935 pleading for the education of Aboriginal Women, stating that “if we get the same education as the white girl, we could stand alongside white people”. My grandmother, Muriel Kneebone, attending TAFE as a mature aged student. When I say mature aged she was into to her 60’s, but was determined to continue learning no matter what this looked like. I know that they would all be proud of me being here and sharing my voice.

Does changing the date matter? Will all the upset, anger, hurt, name calling, racism, etc stop? I don’t believe that it will. No matter what date is chosen there will be opposition.

Yet, we are surviving!

I know that standing before you here today that there may be some Aboriginal people who think that I have sold out, that I am a coconut, and that I am betraying my people. But there are also some Aboriginal people here that are supportive. Aunty Julie, Uncle Rick and his family. Kath and her mob. Thank you for being who you are!

When we sit down and really think about it, is this day the most important thing that we as a population could be discussing? In the bigger scheme of things Aboriginal people have shorter lifespans that non-aboriginal people, we have lower educational outcomes, higher rates of suicide and incarceration.

I’m not standing here and asking for you to change these, but just want to show that there are other issues that we as a culture are thinking of. And again remember that I am not placing the blame.

Even if we were to change the date that we celebrate being Australian, is there a date that doesn’t have some impact on us as a culture. The colonisation, massacres, land rights and the MABO decision. Is there a date that would be perfect?

Is it a date that is because of some instrumental battle that Aboriginal people have had to fight for?

Maybe 27th May when Aboriginal people were no longer counted as Flora and Fauna after the 1967 referendum.

Or maybe, 3rd June when Eddie MABO’s land title claim was successful in the High Court of Australia in 1992. Even though Eddie had passed away a few months before.

23rd August, to commemorate when in 1966, Vincent Lingiari and 200 other cattlemen walked off their jobs to fight for their land. (Think about the song from Paul Kelly – From Little Things, Big Things Grow). Or do we choose to celebrate the day that the government recognised that the land did belong to the Gurindji people on 16th August, 1975.

So, as you can see just using these examples alone choosing just one date would be a difficult task indeed.

Throughout our Australian history past governments have made policies that have impacted us as a culture. Yet we are still here!

Governments have tried to cleanse us of our blackness, breed us out, and stop us from practicing our beliefs, hunting and gathering. Yet we are still here.

I know there will be some people who say “can’t you just get over it” and the answer is no, I can’t. I wouldn’t ask you to forget about commemorating the ANZACs and remembering the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives and I wouldn’t say to someone affected by the holocaust to get over it and that it happened in the past and has nothing to do with us now. But I would ask that we all take a moment and reflect. Reflect about what has happened in the past, reflect about what we have learnt from things that have happened in the past. And how that shapes us all into the future.

Until the day comes when we can all accept white and black history of this country and that real Australians are welcoming, regardless of background, religion, colour or sexual preference, then we will never be a united Australia.

So I guess in summary here it is - I’m here and I’m proud to be me! To me today is Survival Day. May Bunjil watch over you.

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