Regional communities like Ballarat which are embracing inclusion should lead the debate about the future of Australia's national day, according to advocates.
Ballarat based artist and Torres Strait Islander Deb Clark, who joined central ward councillor Belinda Coates and Wendouree MP Juliana Addison in launching what will be a virtual 'Survival Day' service on January 26, says with a greater understanding of Australia's history, the opportunity was there for communities across the nation to discuss what the future of a national day looks like.
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"I think people are coming to understand the January 26 represents a flag in the ground, 11 ships with convicts coming in," Ms Clark said.
"To me, no date that has any recognition of Captain Cook is worthy of a national treasure.
"It's not something I choose to recognise in that way. Our history has to tell the whole story and I think we have to create a new space, but right now I don't know what that is."
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Ms Clark said a national day should celebrate everyone.
"To consider what Harmony Day represents, it evokes a lot more of what we are as a country. We live in a country where we say it's a fair go, yet we know in many places it's not," she said.
"I think a national day - a day that represents everybody in an equitable way, not an equal way - I would be very much an advocate for.
"I have thought about the date, for me personally, anything with a colonial connection, for all of Australia does not work.
"God love 'Kevin 07' (former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd), and maybe 'Sorry Day' represents something, but it came about because of the structures that created that perspective which was not from an Indigenous way of reckoning.
"I think the conversations we could have in our local community here could be really powerful in recognising a date that creates a new space, nothing to do with anything that has gone before."
Cr Coates said she had felt a changing of attitudes surrounding January 26 in recent years.
"It's incredibly moving to understand how community attitudes have changed and continue to change. The conversations and discussions that are happening are really profound and important," she said.
"Understanding these are personal stories that impact on people now, the stolen generation, hearing about massacres that happened and understanding the true event of our history in Australia. There were frontier wars, there were massacres and those are not really spoken about.
"I think we really need to look at changing attitudes first, we really need to broaden our understanding so we have a clear national understanding of the truth of our history in Australia and what colonisation meant for first people here."
Ms Addison said while there were no current plans to change the national date, she encouraged all people to recognise our whole history on the day.
"I think as we mature as a country and we mature as a community there is a level of discomfort about our history, particular our history since 1788," she said.
"Many people know that I was a history teacher, and I have watched our curriculum over previous decades really change to reflect and change the broader story of Australia.
"Australia didn't start when Captain Cook reported there was a land called Australia. It didn't start when Captain Arthur Phillip put a flag at Sydney Cove. It started tens of thousands of years ago by our first nations people who cared for and nurtured the land.
"I really do think it's important that we focus on the whole Australian story on Australia Day, not just the last 225 years."
Ms Addison said she would celebrate Australia Day reflecting, but also enjoying what had been created.
"We know it is a day of hurt for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," she said.
"We know it is a day where they reflect on what has happened to their people over the centuries but it's also a day where we can recognise the importance of modern Australia, an Australia that is tolerant, an Australia that is welcoming, an Australia with people from over 200 countries around the world.
"We are a democratic country where people have freedom of speech, freedom of religion and this is something I embrace, celebrating a modern Australia that is the best country in the world."
Ballarat's 'Survival Day' ceremony to go virtual
BALLARAT'S second 'Survival Day' service has been boosted by a $5500 state government grant which will enable participants to create a virtual service at dawn on January 26.
The funding has been given to Ballarat's Koorie Engagement Action Group (KEAG) for the development of a soundscape by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians for people to listen to at the conclusion of the Survival Day Dawn Ceremony in 2021.
Musicians DeborahN and Peter Lovett will collaborate on the reflective soundscape which will be free to download.
KEAG co-chair Cr Belinda Coates said It was hoped that in 2021 attendees could participate in a reflective walk together, but due to COVID-19 the ceremony would be presented in a virtual format.
However, the soundscape will provide an opportunity after the event for people across Ballarat to reflect on what January 26 means.
Wendouree MP Juliana Addison said it was a special way to begin the day.
"It was a very special event as the sun came up on January 26 last year to acknowledge the hurt and impact and devastation of colonisations that white settlement has brought to Australia," Ms Addison said.
"It was a special way to reflect and to start the day thinking about Australia as an ancient country with an ancient culture and I think it is the best way we should be celebrating Australia Day."
Ms Addison said the total funding package would support almost 5000 jobs in the music industry across the state which has been hard in recent times.
"I am delighted that a $5500 allocation will allow Ballarat's Survival Day Dawn Ceremony to be further enhanced through the talents of local Indigenous artists," she said.
The link to the music soundscape will be posted on the KEAG Facebook page, @KEAGBallarat.
The 2021 Survival Day Dawn Ceremony at Lake Wendouree will be livestreamed from 5.30am on January 26.
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