Australia Day or the Invasion Day is observed throughout Australia on 26 January every year. Australians observe it as their National Day commemorating the arrival of First Fleet at Sydney Cove when Captain Arthur Phillip took possession of the New South Wales colony officially, thus hoisting the British flag in 1788 for the first time on Australian soil.
Although the day was recognised as Australia Day a century later after the First Fleet arrived, the celebrations date back to the year 1808 with first official celebrations. However, aborigines see this day as the dark day of their lives, which deprived them of the basic right to their own land and loss of people. They consider the day as a Day of Great Loss of family and culture.
Australia Day – A Day of Grand Celebrations:
- Setting their foot on the land of Australia on this day, the British established themselves as the rulers of this land. It has become a day of grand celebrations through community festivals. People let go of the stress and go towards beaches to relax, enjoy and celebrate.
- Citisens for outstanding work and extraordinary contributions to the country are honoured.
- This day is the biggest occasion for acquisition of Australian Citisenship, thus making it among the most important features of the day.
- Barbecues and music festivals are a common feature across the country with people getting together to celebrate this day.
- Outdoor concerts and fireworks take place in different communities in all the states and territories making it a day of merriment.
- Sydney harbour becomes the center of sports competitions with ferry and tall ships races. Multi-culture of this nation is depicted through events like the People’s March.
- Although the day faces a lot of criticism, for a citisen of Australia it is a day of joy and pride along with being a day to celebrate the achievement of their nation.
Invasion Day – A Day to Mourn Huge Losses
As a strong contrast, 26 January is also marked and observed as the Invasion Day by the aborigines of country who live a traditional life. It represents the invasion of their land. Why should they celebrate this day or what calls for the celebration, is a pertinent question every aborigine has in his/her mind. Unanswered, it is a cause of dissatisfaction and unhappiness even today.
Aborigines of Australia call this day by different names. They are: ‘Day of Mourning’, ‘Invasion Day’, and ‘Survival Day’. As an effort to unite all aboriginals in their fight for sovereignty this day is also celebrated by many as the ‘Aboriginal Sovereignty Day’ by many people who believe in fighting back for their rights.
Why do they call it the Day of Mourning?
When the First Fleet landed in the Sydney Cove, it altered the lives of aborigines of the nation for all times to come. It was the day that saw the abduction of people, killing of local resistance and forceful eviction. They consider it as a day when they lost their land to the invaders. The darkest things of the day are the death in custody and loss of family. Basically the aborigines were stripped of all their rights. As this day represents the massacres that took place, it is a day of deep sorrow to them.
What has caused this Dissatisfaction?
Aborigines feel that:
- They were driven out of their lands
- The struggle led to killing of aboriginals
- They were not allowed to follow their customs and culture
- They were not allowed to teach their language
- They were disrespected.
The deprivation of rights and the deaths caused by this invasion is etched on the minds of the aboriginals not to view the day as a day of celebrations. The attack on their culture and lifestyle has given them the cause to display their dissatisfaction or unhappiness through various activities like re-enactments of Phillip’s landing which was accepted as part of the ceremonies for the Australia Day celebrations. The aborigine’s stage protests on this day to show their dissatisfaction staging protests to show their loss.
This day being a day of great contrasts, is both celebrated and mourned by two different groups of people of Australia. While the day represents achievements, joy and fun, it also marks the sorrow of people who were unable to exercise their rights.