Oxfam has called on all Australians to mark January 26 with reflection rather than celebration, given the historic and ongoing injustices experienced by the First Peoples of the nation.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, today’s date marks the beginning of British colonial settlement in Australia, which was conducted without a treaty or any recognition of Indigenous rights or prior land ownership.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said for many First Nations people and other Australians, it is seen as a Day of Mourning due to the Indigenous dispossession and, in many places, the violence, even genocide, carried out to obtain traditional lands.
“The results of this injustice can still be seen today, with First Peoples experiencing extremely high rates of incarceration, vast numbers of children being removed from their families, and significantly poorer health and other socio-economic measures,” she added.
“We at Oxfam Australia are committed to self-determination, recognition of sovereignty and a democracy that is founded on Treaty and truth-telling.
“As such, we believe that an essential first step towards reconciliation is for the Australian Government to change the date of Australia Day to one that acknowledges and celebrates 60,000 years of First Peoples’ custodianship of this country.
“This would be the start of a journey which must include support for the central tenets of the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart: the establishment of the Makarrata Commission to oversee negotiation of treaties and truth-telling; and constitutional change to recognise First Peoples through the establishment of a First Nations Voice to the Australian Parliament.”
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