For many, there are myriad reasons why 26 January is a date to celebrate –welcoming refugees and migrants to a new life as permanent residents in a country that is not war torn or politically unsettled or celebrating starting a new life with a partner to raise an Aussie family together.
But for contemporary Australia, 26 January has always been a contentious day. For many it has never been a cause for celebration. Choosing a day that celebrates 250 years of colonisation while ignoring 65,000 years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, means that, for many, this is a day of mourning and unrest. It is a constant reminder of our shared past, our shared history.
Despite efforts over the years – through protests, suggestions of other dates, the teaching of our history in schools, the making of documentaries and storytelling to provide Australians with these documented histories of a tragic and misinterpreted past – the only real offering of a solution has been to ‘move on’ and ‘get over it’. Many would like a simple solution – to move forward together without associating the past. But is that a solution at all? Certainly not for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The movement around truth-telling is an important step in offering solutions. Truth-telling requires finding a common purpose that aligns to healing and reconciliation of our shared past. This has its difficulties.
The generations of today do not feel connected enough to their shared past to delve deeper into the atrocities afflicted on our people that have caused so much pain and trauma. The tendency is to place responsibility on only those who perpetrated or procured these despicable acts. The ‘wasn’t me’ mentality.
Finding healing and reconciliation will be impossible if we continue different paths. At the Stronger Smarter Institute, it is acknowledged in our programs that it requires deep personal introspection to lead us along the same paths to a shared understanding. We all need to be bold and brave enough to accept and peel away layers of self-conception to reveal what is actually true to allow us to begin an intentional journey that shapes our choices.
Our schools are key places for truth telling. They are the places to teach our children both the true histories of our shared past, as well as the beauty and depth of our First Nations culture. On the 26 January, let’s be mindful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, have a history of 65,000 years of sophisticated Indigenous knowledges, histories, and cultures.
At the Stronger Smarter Institute, we encourage participants to challenge themselves to ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’
We all need to ask ourselves these questions:
‘How will the world be a better place because of my attitudes, my beliefs and my actions?
How can I live purposefully to create positive impact in the world’?
The outcomes of the recent referendum have not dulled our evolution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander narratives in this country. We must keep the momentum going. We may have been defeated in this one paradigm of acknowledgement and recognition as First Peoples, but we are achieving great community-controlled efforts in others such as health and education. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continuously and fearlessly evolve to uphold these crucial Indigenous narratives.
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If you would like to learn more, join us this year.