When a Canadian friend visited Melbourne in January, I heard myself offering this advice: “Avoid the CBD on the 26th, there’ll be huge crowds, mostly due to the change the date rally for Invasion Day. It overtakes the Australia Day parade!”
As the words left my mouth, I felt proud of the huge numbers who show up each year to create change. I hoped mentioning the rally would initiate a conversation on the subject with her and her travel buddy, and was unsure their thoughts, as international travellers on Indigenous Australian culture, and their beliefs.
“All they need to do is change the date, still Australia Day but on another day” I continued.
It was soon clear they were up to speed with our nations ‘real’ story, with both mid 20’s women nodding their heads in agreement. I was glad how widespread the ‘real’ Australian history is today, with the inclusion of Indigenous Australian culture, comparatively to my own Primary and Secondary school history lessons.
Until the 2000’s the school curriculum completely skipped over the suffering of the Indigenous Australians, when referencing Captain Cooks arrival, and the actions which followed. Important Australian culture facts were ‘left out’, providing students with a one sided warped view of our countries history.
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It wasn’t until my late teens and early 20’s I heard snippets of the real stories: the Stolen Generation, massacres, slavery and more, resulting in a slow realisation that there had been unimaginable details kept in the dark, and a whole lot more still in secrecy.
The more I heard, the more compassion I had for Indigenous Australians, whose pain has been carried from generation to generation, and who continue to struggle against racism, poverty and displacement, to name only a few repercussions.
One story which struck me as incredibly moving, was the recounting of when the Japanese bombed Darwin in 1942, which was the largest single attack on Australia by foreign power.
The Indigenous people of the area, having no idea what was attacking them, used traditional weapons as their defence. This outlines the innocence and vulnerability of the culture and the easy targets they would have been when colonisation began in 1788.
There are of course many inspiring and resonating Australian culture facts and lessons to be learnt from Indigenous Australian culture, which have sometimes been overshadowed by sadness and political struggles.
Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia
by Bruce Pascoe and Vicky Shukuroglou:
If you are visiting the Northern Territory, there are Arnhem land tours to visit and learn from one of the largest indigenous reserves in Australia.
Alternatively, if an Arnhem land tour is not on your itinerary, throughout Australia there are plenty of other Indigenous Australian culture experiences to learn of indigenous culture and history.
Take for example Indigenous Australian artists, producing Indigenous art, such as Dreamtime stories, painting and artistry, ceremony, spirituality, innocence, kinship and connection to the land. These past times could only help our Australian culture, connecting people and encouraging empathy and understanding.
If you are travelling in Australia, here are some tips to familiarise yourself with Indigenous history, and connect to the culture:
Take a tour:
One of the ‘hands down’ best tours I have taken was the Broome to Cape Laveque one day tour.
We visited Indigenous communities as we travelled north and learnt a tonne of information on the culture and history of the Indigenous people in the area. The tour guide was very respectful of the communities and although he knew some of the locals, we gave the families space as we gazed upon the beautiful churches and vast landscape.
There are also plenty of Indigenous walking tours in each state.
Keep the conversation going:
Change the secrecy that still holds back major progress, by commenting and continuing the conversation on changing the date and Indigenous history in social and family groups.
Tune into supportive radio, print and visual media:
In 2017 Triple J Radio station changed their Hottest 100 broadcast to the Saturday prior to or after the 26th January. They responded to survey results from hottest 100 listeners.
As reported by SBS In 2017, ‘school teachers have more resources and support to teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and perspectives, but this depends entirely on the commitment, enthusiasm and energy of the individual school, principal and teacher.
If you are travelling Australia and interested in experiencing the full experience of the country, consider taking part in a tour, Indigenous Australian culture and activities, and keep the conversation flowing, which will promote change and awareness for the future.
I’d love to hear any thoughts, please add to the comments below!