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Did you know that after their arrival of British settlers in Australia on January 26, colonial genocide reduced the First Nations population from nearly 1.5 million people to less than 100,000?
No wonder this day signifies such loss, grief and dispossession for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While top Australian political and business figures are starting to distance themselves from the controversial national holiday, no moves are afoot by the Government to change the day.
Some companies, among them Telstra and Woolworths, are allowing staff to work on January 26, rather than take time off, out of respect for Indigenous Australians. This year Elladex also chose to allow staff to work and to take a holiday on a different day.
Tennis Australia also said this week that there would be no celebration during the 2023 Australian Open while Victoria cancelled its Australia Day parade.
Rather than celebrate ‘Australia Day’ we need to remind ourselves of the wisdom of our First Nations people, and the burden of grief and loss they carry, not just from the past but from current injustices including deaths in police custody, lower life expectancy and the continued repercussions of the Stolen Generation.
I look forward to a future where all Australians are united and where diversity is celebrated, as well as past wrongs reconciled. We have a lot of work to do but the tide is changing.