Imagine you are getting the kids ready for school. TV is on in the background while they finish their breakfast. Your mind is already mentally sorting through the things you know need doing at work. You only just hear and register the sudden change on the TV to a breaking news story – saying foreign troops are flooding into the capital cities in their thousands, killing any resistors and taking prisoners to use as slaves. Confused, you wonder if this is some kind of hoax, but the vision being shown looks realistic enough….a bit of fear starts to creep in just as you become aware of the sound of planes – hundreds of planes. You rush to the window and see the skies filled with planes, and parachutes, and there are soldiers landing. Now terrified you scream for your kids and you take them and run into your bedroom, closing the curtains, knowing it’s futile but not knowing what else to do.
Within a short time the soldiers reach your house and don’t even pretend to acknowledge they are coming into your home – they simply break your locks and let themselves in. They start going through your things, your families things, taking what they want, discarding what they don’t. You hear shots being fired, screams, you know people that you know are dying and you are terrified beyond belief for your family, what’s going to happen next? Do you fight? Do you give up and hope you’ll be spared?
Fast forward 5 years. Your home is no longer yours but was taken by a foreign family. You live in a block of apartments with all the survivors from your neighbourhood. The new Australians don’t trust you, generally speaking. You got a new job but it’s basically only the lowest tasks that you’re allowed to do, for a minimum wage. Every day you walk past your old house and see the strangers living there not caring that it was yours, not really even giving a thought to it. They love Australia and feel lucky to be there. But they look through you when they see you as if, by not really acknowledging your existence, it somehow erases the fact they are here at your expense. That they didn’t join the community. They invaded it. They took it. And don’t seem to comprehend that it was someone else’s first.
You wonder how it’s possible that someone can live in your house, sleep in your bed, drive your car and yet not care about the fact that they belong to another person? A person who was simply forced to give them up and now lives elsewhere, trading a 4 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms and a decent backyard for a 1 bedroom apartment in an old, smelly block of apartments. How can the ‘new’ family simply ignore this fact?
Then, as the next anniversary of the invasion rolls around, the New Australians decide to hold a parade and street party to celebrate 6 years in the beautiful country they are now so proud to call home. You are invited to the street party but, horrified, decline. When questioned, you say ‘Why would I want to celebrate the day when you, strangers from another country, came into my home and took everything I had from me, for yourselves? Why would I celebrate the death of so many I knew, killed just for standing up for themselves and trying to protect their families and homes? How could I celebrate that?’
They don’t understand. They shrug and say ‘Well you have to move on, some time. The past can’t be changed – and, you know, I only got here 2 years ago. It wasn’t me who did that so…. I think you people just need to accept and move forward so we can all get along.’
And the party happens. And every year it happens and gets bigger and bigger. And every year you get angrier and more sad and wonder how you are supposed to ever be at peace with these people who won’t even genuinely own the fact that they stole what was yours – disrupted and ruined your life – killed so many innocent people – changed life forever for a whole country of people, for no more reason than they wanted Australia for their own and you lot were in the way.
And so, I think about the two sides of January 26. I get that some Aussies want to celebrate Australia on this day. The beautiful country. Our freedom. Our strengths as a nation. I do too. I love this country and I’m so grateful I was lucky enough to have been born here.
But I also understand that some Aussies view January 26 with sadness and pain and frank disbelief, even. I get that.
I’m not saying don’t celebrate Australia. We definitely should.
Just maybe we could, as a loving and kind and genuine people, be sensitive and real and acknowledge the reality of what did happen for so many Australians on this day in 1788, and that its not really something to celebrate. And move the date on which we honour this beautiful nation. A simple thing. But perhaps a huge gesture of recognition.
Just a thought.