Go ahead - celebrate a date that exposes fiction of ‘terra nullius’

January 26, 2019
Invasion Day march in Sydney on january 26. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Keep the date. If you really want to celebrate the oppressors keep it. You won’t be alone. Its amazing how many people love their oppressors. So many of convict stock for instance, who revere the red, white and blue.

If you want to celebrate January 26 by all means do: just be clear that you are celebrating those with so much wealth power that they will never need, nor want to, invite you to feast with them.

For me it marks the origin of irony in this once beautiful land. Take for instance, the story of Walgett, which ran out of clean drinking water a few days ago.

The name “Walgett” comes from a Gamilaraay word meaning “meeting of two waters”, the Namoi and Barwon Rivers. It has never run out of water until now. Not because of a drought, or climate change. But because the water has been stolen. Stolen, in the ancient, pre-legal sense of the word.

The great civilisation foisted upon this land permits giant agribusiness to take whatever water they want, do with it what they will, sell it for what they want. You would think if there was no water left in the river, fish dying, maybe even people dying, they would stop. But no.

Apparently it is fine for people to drink unfiltered bore water – brown, slimy, smelly and overloaded with sodium. If you’re thirsty, soft drinks are cheaper to buy than water. Public health? Rates of renal disease, obesity are high in Walgett, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

​Australia is seeing desertification as a result of climate change but we would rather call that just another drought. However these dry river systems are not due to climate change (or drought). They are due to vested interests and greed. The same vested interests that came here, on January 26.

So in the face of a massive heatwave, ordinary people have driven out to Walgett bringing clean water. A friend  who drove there called it “frontline aid”. He joined others in Newcastle who gathered donations for water and set out with a convoy from the Central Coast and Campbelltown, driving to Walgett. There have been other convoys and there will be more. A unique Dunkirk.

On January 26, celebrate the fact that the fiction of “terra nullius” has been exposed, and be aware of how the harm it has caused is still with us.

By all means, keep that particular date, until we have overcome the horrors associated with it. Horrors that left unchecked, will make us all refugees in this land.

[Niko Leka is the Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy convenor and a member of the Socialist Alliance. First published in Newcastle Herald.]

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