Some call it Australia Day. Others, Invasion Day. For me, it’s January 26th – a public holiday and a welcome break from the daily grind.
Australians woke to the news that their prime minister had awarded Prince Philip a knighthood – and by bestowing this colonial trinket on a pointless prince had implied that no Australian was worthy enough. Abbott’s shameless servility was a source of amusement for me – and to think, they call me a “prisoner of mother England” – POME.
As it was our first national day since arriving, we headed for Swanston Street and the parade. It’s a familiar format – representatives from each of Melbourne’s multicultural communities march past the town hall flashing sycophantic smiles at the dignitaries outside.
Halfway through, I wonder where the aborigines are. I wait expectantly. Then I notice an Aboriginal flag in the distance. Here they are I thought – they’re saving the “first people” until last – as a sign of respect… Not so, the premier and his cronies were whisked away before they arrived.
Something wasn’t right… As they got closer I could sense their militancy. The smiles and waves were replaced by banners and chants. Words like slavery, genocide, and land grab, were held aloft as a chorus of “always was, always will be, aboriginal land” rang out.
Rudd’s 2008 apology gave me the impression aboriginal grievances were largely resolved. This protest dispelled that myth. These people clearly had the hump. I’ve since discovered, it was only in 1967 that the flora and fauna act was amended to elevate their status from animals to human beings. Compensation and land ownership disputes remain.
Australia’s anti-refugee policies are well publicised. Tony Abbott’s “stop the boats” mantra might sound like an aboriginal slogan from the 1790s, but it actually refers to modern day political intention to keep outsiders out. An ironic phrase when you consider how the white man got over here.
Fortunately, this pull-the-ladder-up mentality is less rife than the Murdoch rags would have you believe. I’ve seen plenty of sentiment to the contrary. But the question remains – can there ever be justice on stolen land?