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Australia 'What are we celebrating?': New Australia Day campaign highlights 'raw' and 'painful' past

17:51  22 january  2020
17:51  22 january  2020 Source:   brisbanetimes.com.au

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Neither federal government nor opposition support push to change date of Australia Day .

Australia Day is for all Australians , no matter where our personal stories began. Reflect on being Australian , celebrate contemporary Australia and Captain James Cook raised the Union Jack on what is now called Possession Island on 22 August to claim the eastern half of the continent as New

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For Anaiwan and Kamilaroi elder Steve Widders, 64, Australia has been a multicultural country for thousands of years - since hundreds of Aboriginal nations co-existed on the land. "We were united in our diversity," he said.

Mr Widders, who is blind, worked in Aboriginal communities for 40 years before joining New South Wales' multicultural advisory board in 2014 to support refugees and migration. "I am an Aboriginal man but I wanted to do more. I feel very strongly about the changing society we live in," he said.

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Australia Day is about acknowledging and celebrating the contribution that every Australian makes to our contemporary and dynamic nation. In addition, over 16,000 new Australians become citizens on Australia Day . give thought to how lucky we are to live in Australia .

Indigenous elder says Australia Day debate must continue. June Mills says changing the date is not enough but it “The most important thing is to be educated on the reality. When you celebrate the arrival of the first fleet in A tongue-in-cheek campaign calls for the national day to be held on 8 May.

But Mr Widders says the country's future depends on "truth-telling". "We have to educate people about the real history of this country. What are we celebrating on Australia Day? Is it the demise of Aboriginal culture, is it the government policy of removing children?"

a man sitting at a table with a plate of food: Chinese migrant Stevenson Su and Aboriginal elder Steve Widders share lunch at Mr Su's restaurant in Canley Vale. Both took part in the National Australia Day Council's new campaign. © Louise Kennerley Chinese migrant Stevenson Su and Aboriginal elder Steve Widders share lunch at Mr Su's restaurant in Canley Vale. Both took part in the National Australia Day Council's new campaign.

He hopes Australians will consider these questions in earnest on January 26, the anniversary of when the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson in 1788, which is why he has taken part in the National Australia Day Council’s official "The Story of Australia" campaign that invites viewers to "respect, reflect and celebrate".

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Campaign hit original ,000 fundraising target in first seven hours, while a separate petition calls to reinstate the Australia Day billboard. “The same groups who complain ‘Muslims don’t assimilate’ complained about the photo of Australian Muslims celebrating Australia Day ,” the fund’s page said.

This highlights Australia Day as something of an anachronism. What it means now has little to do with what it was then. For the only absolute and undeniable fact about history is that it cannot be changed. Obsessing over historical grievances is what tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s and the Middle East

a smiling man in a blue shirt: Rania Awad, who migrated to Australia from Lebanon when she was 11, joined the Australia campaign to inspire young girls like herself. © Supplied Rania Awad, who migrated to Australia from Lebanon when she was 11, joined the Australia campaign to inspire young girls like herself.

The multimillion dollar ad campaign, launched this month, features 20 participants from multicultural backgrounds reading a poem that describes the country's past as painful, raw and beautiful.

It departs from previous campaigns by focusing on the "highs and lows" of Australia's past, with particular emphasis on Indigenous history.

National Australia Day Council chief executive Karlie Brand told the Herald and The Age the campaign, which was created over two years, deliberately did not choose "one story" to be presented as the story of Australia. It has so far attracted a mostly positive reception from conservative commentators to Aboriginal land council representatives.

"[The campaign] includes a very important acknowledgement of pre-colonial history and identifies that the link between all of us, no matter when we came here, is we enjoy the same freedoms and respect the rights of others to have different views, including on Australia Day itself," Ms Brand said.

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Alex Hawke says campaign just Greens ‘pushing that agenda’ and moving celebration from 26 January would be a denial of history.

Celebrations reflect what we value and who we are . This video talks about celebration types, reasons we celebrate and ways we can celebrate things we value.

https://youtu.be/5iOMy9Tg9Bg

In designing this year's ad the council faced a growing community push to change the date of the national holiday, which is considered a day of mourning for some Indigenous Australians and challenged by annual protests. Some councils have cancelled their official celebrations. But the council has no power to change the date and "definitely supports Australia Day being on January 26", Ms Brand said.

"It's important to acknowledge that the date is difficult. That comes in the 'reflect' and the 'respect'. To borrow a line [from the poem] - we all have our views. It’s an opportunity to understand more about our history and why that might be the case for some people."

Mr Widders agrees, although he supports Aboriginal people referring to the day as Survival Day or Invasion Day. "I think we need to have a day where we look at what is it that makes us uniquely Australian," he said.

'Anything is possible' for migrants to Australia

For Rania Awad, 42, who features in the campaign alongside her wife and young daughter, "part of the appeal of Australia in my eyes was anything is possible".

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What is Australia Day commemorating? Australia 's national day isn't all beer and BBQs - for many it's a painful reminder of death, disease and an almost eradicated culture. In 2019 Australian Labour politician Mark Latham has created an advertising campaign How is Australia Day celebrated in the UK? Most of the UK's celebrations take part in London - where tens of thousands of Aussies now live.

Anzac Day is celebrated every year on 25th April in Australia and New Zealand. In Australia and New Zealand, the Commemorative services are held at dawn on 25th April. The ANZAC Day ceremony includes events such as an introduction speech, hymn, prayer, an address, a recitation, the "Last

Ms Awad migrated to Melbourne from Lebanon when she was 11, and went on to open one of the country's first online pharmacies.

"When I arrived in Australia, I still recall thinking: 'This is the first night of my life that I’ll get to sleep without having to hear the sounds of bombs and bullets'," she said.

She took part in the Australia Day campaign to "shine a light" for people in a similar situation to herself. "[It will be worth it] if one small girl feels they don’t have to live a restricted life according to scripture," she said.

Ten years ago Ms Awad thought she would be hiding her sexuality for most of her life. But then she found the "love of [her] life". "I started coming out to more and more people. I started seeing people were very accepting, very open and very loving," she said.

Sydney chef and campaign participant Stevenson Su also credits Australia with encouraging him to be open, talk more and show greater empathy and bravery. He arrived from China in 2011, where he first started his career as an apprentice chef at 12-years-old.

He is now raising a family in suburban Sydney and says his two young children teach him more about the country and its education system each day.

But he's passionate about "keeping tradition" which he does as executive chef of Canley Vale eatery District 8, serving a range of Asian cuisines to a diverse local clientele daily.

"We don't want our next generation to forget where we come from, or our language or Chinese community," he said. "Everything is possible [in Australia] if you're willing to do it."

Conservative commentator Kevin Donnelly dismissed the new campaign as "wishy-washy multiculturalism" that ignores Australia's European identity in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, while Sky host Chris Kenny said he "loved" the ad for reflecting the "inclusive, respectful, diverse, proud and honest" nation.

Chief executive of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Nathan Moran, said "this could be the most inclusive Australia Day ad campaign we’ve ever seen".

"I’m very aware of Australia’s use of comedy to deal with truth. But I suggest that as a First Nations Australia, what occurred on the January 26 is not something that should be trivialised," Mr Moran said.

He praised the ad for showcasing a variety of viewpoints. "Different people have different experiences based on their perspectives of the day," he said.

Indigenous youth in remote Australia share their ideas on #changethedate .
As thousands hit the streets of Australia's cities to back changing the date of Australia Day, life-and-death issues dominate debate and discussion in the Kimberley.As rallies encouraging Australians to #changethedate and #paytherent attract crowds across major cities, the situation in Western Australia's far north will be markedly different.

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