In order to establish the colony the Britsh used both soldiers and indentured convict labour to thwart geurilla forces of the indigenous Eora people who's traditional lands happened to be selected as the site to found this new colony.
The land the British occupied, was viewed as terra nulius, or empty land, as they could see no signs of permaent housing, nor agricultural practices.The British were in official denial that the land was indeed already occupied by its indigenous population, who had lived on the continent for at least fifty thousand years!
It can be argued that ignorance and racism were the foundation stones of the new colony, on the basis of failure to recognise its indigenous people. A failure that continued up until the referendum vote to include Aboriginal Australians on the official population census as recently as 1967, this finally recognised them as citizens, rather than "fauna". Meanwhile, any Indigenous ownership and title to the land was denied, up until the High Court challenge and eventual recognition under the Mabo case in 1992, when Eddie Mabo and four other Meriam people of Murray Island, in the Torres Strait, ran a case to recognise that they had continuosly occupied the land and reefs and therefore were the rightful owners of their traditional land.
The colony of New South Wales, then later Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, continued establish a pattern of doing their best to exterminate and subjugate their indigenous populations. Queensland also instituted slavery to establish and work the sugar cane plantations, in the form of indentured Islander labour, captured from New Caledonia, and Noumea, as well, presumably as the Torres Strait islands. The authorities in Queensland believed Europeans could not work in the tropical heat!
It saddens me that, in recent years, the 26th of January has become the focus of "Australia Day" celebrations. Australia was not founded on this day. Only the colony of New South Wales. Australia, was in fact established when the colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, agreed to form a federation of states, to be known collectively, as Australia. Australia therefore officially came ito being as a country in its own right, on January 1st 1901. Therefore, it is pretty much a no brainer, that Australia Day, would more accurately be celebrated on New Years Day.
Either way, I would find it difficult to get caught up in jingoistic donning of green and gold apparel, flag waving and barbecues of lamb with a tinnie or two, on either day.
Maybe, the day we eventually establish a treaty with this land's indigenous peoples,Australia will actually come of age. Maybe then, on subsequent anniversaries of that date, I will see fit to celebrate a new kind of inclusive Australia Day!
I remember fondly, the fact Australia Day, was just another public holiday, until the bicentennial was "celebrated" in 1988. Much effort was made by the Hawke government and lots of dollars flowed into promoting "the celebration of a nation". Since then promotions for lamb and alcohol have called for their patriotic consumption of these products. Australia Day Awards are handed out to citizens of rare merit. Honours I rarely begrudge. Citizenship ceremonies for our newest Australians also take place, but are also conducted at other times of the year. Thesedays we find Australia Day merchandise, of green and gold products, from tee shirts emblazoned with kangaroos, to eskies and stubbie holders on sale, alongside Australian flags. Cars can be seen with mini Australian flags, feigning diplomatic status, or worse, with beach towel sized flags dangerously flying out their windows. Boxing kangaroos of the merchandise variety are everywhere. Tonight, city councils will set off the fireworks at enormous cost to residents and peril of nocturnal indigenous species and family pets.
Personally, I agreed with the arguments put forward by Australia's indigenous leaders in 1988 and have subsequently viewed January 26th as Invasion Day. I avoided celebrations that year and have done so subsequently. I am not averse to a good celebration. I participate regularly in the Spring Racing Carnival festivities, I have been known to kick up my heels at birthdays and weddings, but Australia Day is a day I tend to grieve some very sad aspects of our history. The 26th of January for me is one of quiet reflection and mourning.
Meanwhile, the national fervour for celebrating January the 26th reflects how strong the connection, or possibly common genes between many Australians and the merino sheep, whose backs Australia was said to be founded on. Both make very good followers, but don't do much contemplation about where their leaders and many of their flock are taking them. Yes, today will find many Aussies enjoying back yard barbecues; lambs to the slaughter!
For what it's worth, happy Australia Day!