EDITORIAL: Australia does not exist.
Today is not a day for reconciliation, but for reckoning.
CW: Honi Soit wishes to advise its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers that the following article makes reference to ongoing colonial violence towards First Nations peoples.
January 26 marks the beginning of the widespread oppression, dispossession and genocide of First Nations people. It is a day of mourning. It always will be.
The blood-soaked history of “Australia” is peculiarly shocking and shameful, and its treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is uniquely vicious.
The torment First Nations peoples feel in relation to our national holiday is too often dismissed by an overwhelming chorus of ‘“what about”-isms.’ Although it is true that Australia is not the only invaded country in the world, it is also true that — along with Fiji and Botswana — we are the only Commonwealth nation in the world yet to sign a treaty with its First Nations peoples.
In 2023, more than 250 years since this land was incorrectly classified as terra nullius, the Constitution still does not recognise Indigenous sovereignty.
These are not matters of mere bureaucracy or legal technicality; they fundamentally underpin and entrench the social and economic exclusion of Indigenous people.
Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families than non-Indigenous children. An Aboriginal child is statistically more likely to go to jail than to graduate from high school.
Though Indigenous people comprise less than three per cent of the Australian population, they account for more than a quarter of those in our prisons. At one point in 2018, every single child in detention in the Northern Territory was Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Aboriginal women are uniquely over-represented in custody: one third of all female prisoners in 2019 were Indigenous. A strong matriarchy is a vital and necessary feature of Indigenous culture, and yet Blak women are imprisoned at 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
Between 2018 and 2019, seventeen Indigenous people died while serving a custodial sentence. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, more than 516 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody.
Indigenous youth — jarjums — have the highest suicide rates in the world, and the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is widening exponentially.
This inequity, and our inability to address it, is this country’s greatest shame.
It makes the celebration of “Australia Day” on January 26 not only insulting, but untenable.
Further, our historical attachment to the date is utterly farcical. Far from an entrenched occasion steeped in tradition, January 26 has only been recognised as a national public holiday since 1994.
The 26th of January 1788 was the date Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack at Warrane, claiming British sovereignty. However, the myth of “Australia” has become so muddied by jingoist rhetoric of triumph and conquest that many Australians struggle to identify exactly what January 26 commemorates. Some still believe it marks the arrival of James Cook in 1770, which in reality happened in April.
January 26 is symbolic of the shameful and systemic oppression, racism and exclusion that First Nations people in Australia still face.
There are those, even now, who will shrug. Others may pause and move on. Many will feel some small measure of guilt before swallowing it on white bread with tomato sauce. But the uncomfortable truth which must be faced is that the colonial project Australians benefit from is built on blood. “Australia” does not deserve a national holiday in any capacity.
White Australia not only has a Blak history, but a Blak future.
Invasion Day 2023 Protest + March
Indigenous Social Justice Association – Sydney
Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties (FISTT)
Justice for David Dungay Jnr.
Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR)
Gamilaraay Next Generation (GNG)
About the artist
Dylan Mooney is a proud Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander man from Mackay in North Queensland working across painting, printmaking, digital illustration and drawing.
Dylan is among artists who are rethinking digital technologies and artistic practices to consider contemporary issues around identity, desire and representation.
“It’s about telling our story of resilience, thriving, survival, how far we’ve come as a people, what we’ve achieved … and where we’ll be in the future.”
Honi Soit is committed to platforming and empowering First Nations creators and artists. We are honoured to be featuring Dylan’s work in our publication.
Visit Dylan’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/dylanmooney__/
Honi Soit is edited, printed and distributed on the sovereign land of Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We honour the Elders of the past and present for their ongoing resistance and survival. Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land.