Our CEO Melissa Perry reflects on January 26

The 26th of January marks a date that has become increasingly divisive on the Australian calendar. Officially known as ‘Australia Day’, it is a national public holiday, and is intended as a celebration of collective appreciation and love for our country.

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The 26th of January marks a date that has become increasingly divisive on the Australian calendar. Officially known as ‘Australia Day’, it is a national public holiday, and is intended as a celebration of collective appreciation and love for our country.
 
For many Australians, the day is filled with barbeques, friends and family, swimming, and – up until the COVID-19 pandemic - a huge fireworks display on the Perth foreshore.
 
It is a day for Australian flags and face tattoo stickers, inflatable kangaroos, and other symbols that are synonymous with modern Australian life.
 
You may see that many other Australians find the date selected for Australia Day to be offensive.  The issue with the current date is that it also marks a moment in history that sparked the end of traditional life and the start of a genocide for Aboriginal people.
 
On 26 January, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack flag at Sydney Cove in New South Wales to symbolically acknowledge that the land was now occupied as a British colony.
 
Colonisation in Australia devastated Aboriginal life and culture – families were torn apart, language and ceremony was forbidden, and foreign disease decimated Aboriginal communities. Traditional and sustainable agriculture was destroyed and Aboriginality in every sense was criminalised.
 
Cycles of disadvantage seen today in First Nations communities can be traced to events that happened during colonisation, such is the extreme impact of trauma and dispossession. So, Australia Day for many Aboriginal people could represent a time to mourn as their culture, lives and families were ravaged by settlement.
 
As 26 January approaches, I encourage you all to reflect on the pain caused to Aboriginal people across the land due to colonisation, but to also consider the great work being done every day in our community by people and organisations to build connections with Aboriginal communities, create bonds, and close the gap.
 
Trailblazing activist and member of Reconciliation Australia Kirstie Parker once said, “We have our eye on the same destination – a sustainable future where Indigenous people are recognised for their wisdom and honoured for their culture – there is no problem taking a different path to reach that place.”
 
We share her sentiment.
 
Questioning the inclusiveness of Australia Day is about asking us all to consider how we best find a way forward. It is right for us to reflect on how well this day serves all Australians. Doing this does not diminish people’s love of their country.
 
We may not always ‘get it right’, but we must continue to strive to support Aboriginal communities.
 
And as always, including on 26 January, we will acknowledge and celebrate the Aboriginal communities on whose lands and waterways we live and work.
 
We acknowledge the Elders past, present, and emerging, and we acknowledge our Aboriginal colleagues, friends, and clients who we stand with in solidarity.  
 
As an organisation, Communicare is vastly multicultural. We operate in a country that has quickly become populated with many different people from all over the world, and we look forward to celebrating our diversity, and our country, on WA Day.

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