Call it what it is: Invasion Day

January 16, 2024
Survival Day in Gadi/Sydney in 2023. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

In a World War II call to arms in 1942, Labor Prime Minister John Curtin (whose government unashamedly promoted a White Australia) said: “From the day that Captain Arthur Philip landed here until this hour, this land has been governed by men and women of our race. We do not intend that that tradition shall be destroyed merely because an aggressor marches against us … Australians you are the sons and daughters of Britishers.”

Another Labor leader, Billy Hughes, was even more explicit about the brutal colonisation. In a 1913 speech on the foundation of Canberra as the country’s capital, he bluntly said: “We were destined to have our own way from the beginning … [and] killed everybody else to get it.”

He added: “The first historic event in the history of the Commonwealth we are engaged in today [is] without the slightest trace of that race we have banished from the face of the earth.”

Invasion, colonisation and genocide cannot be air-brushed out of the official celebrations of so-called “Australia Day” on January 26.

We must call it what it is — Invasion Day — and join thousands of First Nations people and supporters who take to the streets.

The numbers joining these annual marches have grown over the past few years, morally eclipsing and shaming the official celebrations.

Just as thousands of people — including First Nations activists — have joined the weekly protests since October to denounce the Israeli state’s brutal genocide in Gaza, we need to come out “in our thousands and [one day] in our millions” on Invasion Day.

The sustained protests for Gaza have set a new political record, at least in the colonial settler state called Australia.

The shocking brutality of Israel’s carpet bombing and indiscriminate slaughter of thousands of civilians, many of whom were children, and the urgent focus on the global call for an immediate ceasefire, has driven this unprecedented response.

Israel now stands exposed as the racist colonial state it is.

However, the racist and genocidal character of the Australian colonial-settler state is still shrouded by official lies and excuse-making.

A deceitful historical narrative, at best, dismisses the systematic dispossession and genocide of First Nations peoples as being in the distant past.

But this is belied by the still-mounting numbers of First Nations deaths in custody and record numbers of children being removed from First Nations families.

Compared to the rest of the population, the average life expectancy of First Nations people is nine years less for males and eight years less for females. Unemployment is more than twice as high and average First Nations household incomes are more than 20% lower.

This year’s Invasion Day is also charged by the failed Voice referendum on October 14. 

Anthony Albanese put forward a weak proposal for token federal constitutional recognition and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory body that could be ignored.

Nevertheless, the Coalition launched a racist and hysterical campaign, and the referendum was defeated.

Former Liberal PM John Howard weighed in, as the New York Times quoted him telling The Australian: “I do hold the view that the luckiest thing that happened to this country was being colonized by the British.

“Not that they were perfect by any means, but they were infinitely more successful and beneficent colonizers than other European countries,” Howard said.

While Howard was overt in his support for European colonisation, Labor in government shows that it too supports the club of rich white nation states continuing their imperial domination of the world.

Labor supports the global mining companies that continue to destroy precious First Nations heritage sites and are imperilling the liveability of the planet by exporting fossil fuels.

Labor champions the Coalition’s AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines deal, the expansion of United States military bases.

And it supports Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza.

Many militant First Nations activists argued for a progressive “No” vote in the Voice referendum, saying what is needed instead is a truth telling campaign for sovereignty, treaties and rights-based measures to close the gap.

One strong voice was Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe.

After the Voice referendum defeat, her call bears repeating:

“To all the grassroots mob, activists, and allies who have built up networks, Yes or No, in the name of advancing the rights of First Peoples: We must look beyond the division that the referendum has caused and come together to demand the justice necessary to rebuild, and nurture the strength and power of our communities.

“Do not let this be the last time you engage with our struggle. Pour your time, energy and passion into understanding our history and Lore, amplifying our voices and standing with our grassroots communities.

“We must continue to pressure the federal government to begin Treaty-making, implement the [United Nations] Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous people and implement in full the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Bringing Them Home report that have been ignored for decades.”

[Peter Boyle is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive. Find your local Invasion Day rally here.]

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