Alone among Australian councils, the City of Fremantle in Western Australia recognised that January 26 is a date that many Australians do not want to celebrate and instead decided to celebrate with culturally-inclusive public activities two days later.
A morning smoking ceremony kicked off the day's events, which was conducted by elders at the Fremantle Roundhouse — the place where Aborginal men were once imprisoned before being taken to Rottnest Island, from which many did not return. The ceremony was to cleanse the area of bad spirits and recognise the city of Fremantle's efforts to heal the wounds of Aboriginal people.
A great family atmosphere and harmony filled the Esplanade Park as 15,000 people enjoyed the “One Day” concert in the afternoon and early evening. A highlight was John Butler, Dan Sultan, Muma Kin and Gina Williams singing an amazing rendition of Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody’s From Little Things Big Things Grow, with thousands singing along as the sun set over Bathers Beach and the Esplanade.
Fremantle Council endured almost weekly attacks over its decision to hold its Australia Day celebration on January 28 as some very powerful people desperately tried to stifle what has become a national discussion.
“One Day” in Fremantle was one small step on the path towards greater inclusion and respect. We have a long way to go but hopefully "One Day" will resonate around the country for a long time yet.