Rethinking Australia Day in Freo.
August 7, 2016 14 Comments
Just before Australia Day in 2016 I watched Stan Grant’s powerful speech (and now famous) speech on racism and Australia
If you have not seen it then I highly recommend taking the time:
This speech challenged my thinking as to how we celebrate Australia Day and the kinds of events we have on this day in Fremantle. Australia Day is not a one dimensional day of universal celebration of this free, prosperous and peaceful place in which we are so fortunate to live. It is far more complex than that. For many aboriginal people it is a day of sadness, a day in which marks when their dispossession began with British settlement almost 220 years ago.
In my Australia Day speech a few days later I departed from the speech notes I was given to highlight this tension. Interestingly the Australia Day Ambassador to Fremantle Krista McMeeken an aboriginal woman from the Esperance region highlighted similar themes in her talk. It felt like there was a shift emerging in how we understood Australia Day.
After the speeches and citizenship ceremony I had just finished chatting about this challenge with Wadjuk Noongar elder Prof Len Collard when a young aboriginal man who was about to play with his band on stage came over and simply said along the lines of “Thank you for raising this issue. It is really important for us”.
For me was the start of the conversation about rethinking how we mark Australia Day in Fremantle. As it happened others were having a similar conversation around the same time. The time was right for having a fresh think on how Freo manrks Australia Day. It would be fair to say I am not sure on the best way forward but as the Sunday Times and PerthNow have said it will come to the Fremantle Council this Wednesday for debate.
It is a challenging issue and there will be lots of views but this is definitely a discussion worth having and there is no better place than Freo to kick this discussion off.