I recently took part in Indigenous cultural training. Although I have always been empathetic to the horrors that Aboriginals have gone through, I honestly had no idea of the extent of it. This is why I am now torn about the ‘change the date’ argument surrounding Australia Day. Out of respect for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, we should change the date. However, to make more people aware of the, for lack of a better word, utter shit we have put them through, the date should remain, so we can continue to spark the conversation and make more people aware of the injustices that the Aboriginal population have been dealt with, and continue to face today.
Here are some shocking facts I didn’t know about:
Aboriginals didn’t become citizens until 1967 – A referendum was held, with 90% of voters saying ‘yes’ to Aboriginals becoming citizens. Despite fighting in wars for us, our Aboriginal brothers and sisters were not recognised as citizens of the very country they came from, until 1967. Let that sink in.
Before Aboriginals became citizens, they were paid for their work with goods – And these goods included white flour, tobacco, sugar and opium. Consider why there are issues with the health of the Aboriginal population today.
Aboriginals were not allowed to use their native language at risk of punishment – Right up until the 1970’s, there were policies in force to ban Aboriginals from speaking their native languages. That has resulted in the estimated 250 Indigenous languages that were around at the time of the European settlement in 1788 shrinking down to a few dozen.
Aboriginals were sent to live a mission on Palm Island – The thing is, the government was sending groups from across Australia who came from different tribes, spoke different languages and engaged in different customs and assuming they would all get on. In 1999, the Guinness Book of World records named Palm as the most violent place on earth outside a combat zone.
Approximately 35% of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children are living in out-of-home-care – Yet, only 3% of the population in Australia is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
These facts represent just a few grains of sand on a large beach. There are countless other injustices that Aboriginals faced and are still facing today. I am going to leave you with the below map, which records just how many Aboriginal cultures there were before the European Settlement.
David R Horton is the creator of the Indigenous Language Map.