The Australian Greens Senator, Lidia Thorpe, has issued an emotional call for the Aboriginal Flag to be flown at half-mast around Australia on January 26, in a mark of respect for the First Nations people who perished as a direct result of the European colonisation of Australia.
In a opinion piece published by The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, Thorpe emphasised that “For First Nations people across this country, January is a hard month,” due to the “colonial flag-waving,” the “heightened racism,” the “collective amnesia,” and “the celebration of violent occupation.”
Thorpe asserts that the upcoming January 26 public holiday, which brings with it the annual fraught outburst of racism and racist-tinged pushback from white media across Australia, particularly in conservative circles, represents a particularly solemn time for First Nations people.
The date, observed nationwide as “Australia Day” only since 1994, represents the anniversary of a period of history that historians estimate saw some 270 massacres of First Nations people. And that harm and injustices against Indigenous people continue to this day through systemic issues like black deaths in custody.
After more than 200 years of colonisation, too many Australians still think January 26 is a day of celebration.Lidia Thorpe
In 2014, Henry Reynolds, who has written more than any other historian about frontier warfare said in his book Forgotten War that the tally of deaths exceeded 30000.
“A day of mourning is not a new idea, but it is an important one. On this day, the Aboriginal flag can be flown at half-mast, as befits a day of grief and remembrance. I’m inviting communities, councils and organisations across Australia to do just that. Those attending Invasion Day dawn services should also consider wearing black, to symbolise mourning,” Thorpe added.
What is Australia Day?
The marking of 26 January commemorates the arrival of the first fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain, and the first Governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove on 26 January and raised the Union Jack to signal the beginning of the colony.
The date has long been a difficult symbol for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who see it as a day of sorrow and mourning.