By Jim Cole
"Australia Day", January 26, is a day of joy and festivities for most Australians. But what about the feelings of the real Australians?
The original occupants of this country were happy, contented and peaceful until the "founding", or, as we call it, the beginning of an invasion of our lands.
This is not a day of joy, festivities and pride for my people, but rather a day of protest and shame. The Koori people lost our land, a land that is part of us, a land that we call our "Mother" because we feel that we belong to the land, the land does not belong to us.
After the dispossession of our land came slavery, assimilation and an attempted genocide described by the Catholic Commission For Justice and Peace in a 1978 report as being "accomplished with a violence and brutality which, on the standards by which Nazis [were] judged after World War II, could only be described as horrendous war crimes".
The "protection" era removed traditional land which had been owned by Koori people for some 60,000 years. Entire Koori communities were either wiped out or removed to remote government stations on which they had no chance of survival. Thousands of Koori children were taken from their families to be used as labourers, servants and domestic workers for the invaders.
The Anglican Minister at Singleton wrote in 1886 of the NSW Aboriginal people, "They have been the victims of our greed, our lust, our violence and our unspeakable meanness. We have taken their homes. We have used them for the gratification of our brutal passions, we have murdered them with poison, with the bullet and with the sword. They have been butchered to make a stockman's holiday — men, women and children — in more cases than one ... The blood of the Aboriginal people is on our hands."
Some of these are still happening today in ways that cannot be easily detected by most Australians, but we, the Koori people, know they are happening.
At the Bicentenary in 1988 a massive protest march brought Koori people from all over the country to Sydney. This was the first time that we showed that there can be real unity among our people, and the support we received from the non-Aboriginal people of Australia was enormous. I believe that this was the beginning of a new understanding of my people. Non-Aboriginal people are starting to realise the truth about the history of this country and are beginning to look at Koori people from a different perspective.
This year there will be Koori-organised activities all over the country. Yarra Bay House and Oval in La Perouse, Sydney, will see a great weekend, with about 15 Koori bands and plenty of tribal dancers and other traditional activities. This is also the 20th anniversary of the designing of our own flag, and Kooris are House in Canberra to celebrate this great event.
All people — black, white or brindle — are welcome to join us in these events, and we hope you will.