After the celebrations and the demonstrations related to Australia day, it’s time for some reflection. What does Australia day mean for us African-Australians, as members of new and emerging communities in this great nation of Australia? Are we “True blue” Aussies? Can we even claim to be ‘true blue Aussies? May be ‘True blue black” Aussies?
Two African-Australian celebrate Australia Day (Photo: www.sgtalk.org)
The first surprising thing about this Australia day is that almost no prominent African-Australian community leader around the nation has released any public communication for this day. Before writing this article, we conducted a quick search on social media platforms and could not find any statement or even simple comments from our so-called leaders regarding this important day for the nation. I wonder why this is the case. Is it that many do not actually “get it”? or that they are against it ? Or perhaps they see no reason to speak to their community members on what this actually mean or what it should mean? May be they just couldn’t be bothered? After all, many of our community leaders wait until when challenging events happen in the community for them to talk. The great majority of them probably needs PR lessons to be able to effectively exercise their leadership roles outside of the confinements of their small groups that are becoming even increasingly fragmented, regrettably.
Yes, it’s true that Australia day is controversial and many members of the African Australian communities are divided, between the joy of being new citizens of this great nation and on the one hand and the need to recognise the hurt and pain that this day brings to the hearts and minds of aboriginal communities that many of us identify with in so many ways. The controversies regarding the merit and value of Australia day go well beyond African-Communities and extend to broader Australian community. These should not prevent us from recognising what needs to be recognised and highlight areas that require more and better work , education and communication for everyone to feel Australian and celebrate this accordingly.
Many of us new migrants, whether we came to this land from a “forced migration” or “skilled professionals” background, have probably had some opportunities to discuss Australia day in our families and our circles of friends, or perhaps simply think quietly in our own minds what it means to be Australian, the benefits and opportunities offered to us by this country and the challenges and difficulties we face to try to fit in and achieve our best, in a socio-economic environment that is often alien to us and, at times, pulling us away from the directions we would want to take based on our cultural, spiritual and traditional values.
My Australian-born 11 year old son reminded me when I told him that he was Australian, but he was also African and Congolese at the same time. His answer was: Daddy! YOU are Congolese and African, not me… I am Australian”. This response got me thinking deeply and I wondered whether it is a confronting realisation that I already failed to connect my son to my (and his) true roots or whether it’s simply the case that our Australian born kids and the new generation of Africans that is arising in this country wants to focus on their Australianhood rather than Africanhood. Perhaps this should be something that many African-Australian thinkers, leaders and social activists should ask people to reflect on publicly and get some enlightening discussions happening.
If African community leaders did not feel it was important to say something to the communities about Australia day (whatever their views are), social media platforms were full of comments from ordinary Afro-Australians sharing their views on the significance of this day. We are publishing some of these comments and hope to be able to elicit some reactions from the communities to generate healthy debates within our community circles on how we achieve the right balance between our Australian identity and our African roots, whatever this means for each one of us.
As naturalised Australians, we are somehow divided in opinion on the issue of Australia Day. Some of our compatriots do not want us to celebrate because they believe this day reminds them of nothing but agony, distress and evil. Some of our other compatriots agree that many evil acts were committed in the past against the natives of the land, but this is not what is being celebrated. They say “On Australia Day, we come together as a nation to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. It’s the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It’s the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.
Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788. Though 26th January marks this specific event, today Australia Day celebrations reflect contemporary Australia: our diverse society and landscape, our remarkable achievements and our bright future. It also is an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history, and to consider how we can make Australia an even better place in future.” If this is truly what we celebrate, then ” Oi, Oi, Oi” Happy Australia Day to all.
It is the fact that people (Indigenous) were oppressed, tortured, disconnected, isolated and they were deprived of their rights and freedoms. However, the same people deemed it necessary that there’s a need for reconciliation and recognition of Indigenous. Their rights should be respected and their culture should be maintained and more privileges should be given to them as the traditional owners of the land. Today, we all embraced Australia, the first people of the land and the laws that govern us .Let have focus on the positive aspects of Australia and pave the way for the future generations. Long live Australia!