While I was about to indulge in yet another post about Harry Potter (still to come), politics has stolen the show for now on this indignant and melancholy day. What makes it so is the celebrations of a large group of Australians who observe January 26 a national holiday, one mostly characterised by (national)flags used as capes, tacky tattoos (again with the flag), and a justification to get drunk, pick fights, and barf any self-revelatory racist rambling. This is Australia Day, otherwise known as Invasion Day!
What began as a relatively solemn occasion in Canberra today, withstanding the slight murmur of rhetoric around “racism” to be delivered by this year’s Australian of the Year, Dr. Charlie Teo (albeit in a comfortably controlled fashion), exploded with outrage and protest at Tony Abbott’s racist remarks on radio after suggesting an expiry for the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. The commemoration of the Tent Embassy’s 40th Anniversary was marred by Abbott, a bulwark from the previous Howard Government and advocate of its Northern Territory Intervention in 2007.
News of Abbott’s remark and his collusion with Julia Gillard at a nearby restaurant prompted protesters to descend upon the two adherents of racism, forming a picket-line of two-hundred or more people. Disrupting the Emergency Services Awards taking place inside, protesters chanted “shame, shame” while those closest to the glass façade made their anger known by pelting their fists on the glass. Shortly afterwards the two primary instigators of racism fled from the scene in a melodramatic display of
force farce by the Australian Federal Police, clearing a path through the protesters to a car. As usual the AFP meted out a degree of manhandling and violence in the course of protecting the two racists.
As eyewitness, John Passant, points out in his article [here], neither politician attempted to confront the crowd, “It shows you how divorced from ordinary people Gillard and her Labor Party are that instead of coming out and talking to the protesters, she got her hired goons to attack them. I guess when you don’t have any case to make for having bettered Aboriginal lives then you need to use force rather than reason”.
In the process of fleeing the scene Julia Gillard’s tour de force rewarded protesters after she tripped Cinderella-style, lost her shoe, and escaped with ugly step-brother, Tony Abbott in the pumpkin politicians coach.
Of Gillard’s shoe, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s Facebook joked “Julia will be eligible to make a shoe title claim which will take approximately twenty years or more before this is seriously considered. This will be dependant on Julia being able to show continuous connection with the shoe. This may be difficult to prove as she will not have had the shoe for 20 years.”
The usual backlash by the media has obsessed over the incident, with more lip-service attributed to the Prime Minister than the protesters, going so far as defending Gillard’s legwork and fabricating her “fear” of the anger shown towards Tony Abbott and herself. Interestingly, the topic of “racism” was dropped almost entirely from successive media reports in contrast to the familiar political vitriol against the notion of Australia being “racist” that always builds up prior to Australia Day.
Such arguments against the notion that Australia is “racist” flounders, and is made untenable with the daily human rights abuse of refugees by indefinite mandatory detention, arguably a perpetuation of the White Australia Policy, and by the festering wound of Australia’s past that forces these politicians to realise Australia has a black history.
Consistent with this argument, transgressions such as the Northern Territory Intervention in 2007, then supported by Tony Abbott, are still defended by Gillard’s Government as a means of “assisting” and “protecting” Aboriginal people as evident in the lack of action or move towards reparations. This ongoing racist interventionist stance ensures Australia’s successive inability to represent the needs, the desires, or the demands of indigenous Australians that had prompted the creation of an Aboriginal Tent Embassy 40 years ago.
Without any significant consideration for Aborigines, and the continued celebration of January 26 that marks Australia’s invasion by white Europeans, “Australia Day” will continue to evoke memories of dispossession and remind indigenous Australians of their lesser citizenship to land once theirs. Invasion Day then should not be a day to celebrate and forget past “mistakes” as these “mistakes” continue to occur daily in racist attacks on Aborigines, rightly eliciting fightback from indigenous activists, protesters and supporters.
For a history of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy see here:
Also check out John Passant’s: Australia Day celebrates racism and genocide