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Reflections: Invasion Day in Australia

Every January 26thin Australia, schools, post offices, and businesses close to commemorate the day in 1788 that a convoy of 11 ships filled with British convicts captained by Author Phillips landed at Port Jackson in New South Wales. The reason for this trip was to establish a work colony for the British government. Over the years the date has been called Anniversary Day, First Landing Day, or Foundation Day. All states and territories celebrate Australia day, with the government hosting naturalization celebrations and similar events to memorialize the day.[1]

However, for the Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders from the area that is now called Queensland, January 26thand the holiday that has been imposed by the state is a celebration of the start of the settler colonial scheme of violence organized to dispossess indigenous peoples of land and life. Accompanied by large protests, and has been renamed as Survival Day or Invasion Day, to more accurately describe the experience of Torres Strait and Aboriginal people.[2]

This past week on Invasion Day, tens of thousands of people protested around Australia to reject the state narrative of nationalism at the expense of Aboriginal people, with some protests as large as 5,000 people. [3]In addition to lower life expectancies, higher rates of poverty, and increased exposure to violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait, 2018 has brought a new set of adoption policies that enable the state adopt children out of foster care without the biological parent’s consent.[4]With Aboriginal children already making up about 40% of the population of people in foster care, it is predicted that these new policies will continue to rob indigenous families of their young people, thereby perpetuating the colonial project that was started in 1788 with the arrival of Author Phillips.

Whether it be the abolition of events like Columbus Day in the United States or Australia day, memorials and celebrations of genocides of indigenous peoples must be eliminated and replaced with events that honor indigenous tribes, nations, and marginalized people who have continued to demand sovereignty and recognition to not only improve conditions for themselves, but for all of us.

Yarrow Allaire is a second year student from Albuquerque’s South Valley.

[1]About Australia Day. https://www.australiaday.org.au/about-australia-day/

[2]Esther Han, ‘Offensive to celebrate genocide’: Invasion Day protesters take to the streets. The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/offensive-to-celebrate-genocide-invasion-day-protesters-swarm-streets-20190126-p50tsr.html. (Jan. 26, 2019).

[3]Tom Westbrook and Lidia Kelly. Thousands protest Australia Day legacy. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-day-protests/thousands-protest-australia-day-legacy-idUSKCN1PK05Y. (Jan. 25, 2019).

[4]Lorena Allam. Adoption without parental consent legalized in NSW. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/23/adoption-without-parental-consent-legalised-in-nsw. (Nov. 22, 2018).

By Tribal Law Journal Blog

The Tribal Law Journal was established in fall 1998 for the purpose of promoting indigenous self-determination by facilitating discussion of the internal law of the world’s indigenous nations. The internal law of indigenous nations encompasses traditional law, western law adopted by indigenous nations, and a blend of western and indigenous law. Underscoring this purpose is the recognition that traditional law is a source of law.

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