Rachael Cavanagh
Rachael Cavanagh Caitlan Charles

Australia Day: What it means to me

AS everyone would be aware, we celebrate Australia Day this coming Friday - 26 to January. For the last couple of years there has been ongoing and robust debate about whether this date should be changed due to the negative connotations it has for many Aboriginal people.

Many local government councils around Australia are open to a debate on the topic. Locally, the Clarence Valley councillors have different views on the Australia Day debate as reported by the Daily Examiner on Saturday.

Unfortunately though, there are those that have attempted to shut down debate like a Sydney paper who wrote about how Aboriginal leaders do not want the date changed and that, according to the newspaper, it is all a campaign by the "PC Brigade and the Greens". The article then goes on to highlight the views of only 2 Aboriginal individuals, one of whom, actually says he did want the date changed.

So what do Aboriginal people really think about Australia Day and a possible change of date? We asked some Aboriginal local people their views


Rachael Cavanagh from Grafton

"I personally feel it doesn't matter if you change the date or not. It's still going to be Australia Day. We still have a long way to come. We need to abolish Australia Day completely and have a day that we can all celebrate because Australia Day is about the patriarchal society of white colonisation. We need to be acknowledging the past, remembering our ancestors and their fight for equal rights and justice".

Dean and Rachael and others have organised a Corroboree on Australia Day.

"The 26th, a day of mourning, a day of resilience, a day to remember our ancestors. Come share with us in a corroboree where we will kick up the dirt and sing out loud to let them know we haven't forgotten."


Stef Mercy from Maclean

Stef Mercy
Stef Mercy

Stefanie Mercy believes the Clarence Valley Council has been supportive of significant events like NAIDOC and Sorry Day. She feel that these types of events bring people together to understand what it means for Indigenous people - they are great initiatives. Stefanie believes our younger generations, both black and white and adults too, need to understand how this date (January 26) affected and still affects Aboriginal people today.

Stefanie says: "I think that the Clarence can do better, by having positive and healthy discussions around 'changing the date' as a collective and community initiative. Racism that is still shown towards the history of the Stolen Generation and Aboriginal people is hurtful, for those that had to endure the pain of losing culture, connectedness, kinships and ties to their community and families"

"I have grown up hearing stories from my mother Gloria who is Gumbaynggirr and my father Lester who is Yaegl and both have such great connections in community. They tell of the struggles that they, and many family members have faced back in those days, just for being Aboriginal.

''It is about black and white coming together and being culturally inclusive as a one race and to stop the ugliness that stems from the past and still carries through today. I believe 'from little things, big things grow'.''


Trevor Kapeen from Grafton

Trevor Kapeen (far right)
Trevor Kapeen (far right) Debrah Novak

Trevor says: "I am happy to leave the celebrations on this day as it serves as an acknowledgement that our land has been found and that our people have lived with the new Australians since settlement. Here we are all concerned about the past and how it affected our people, don't get me wrong what was done was injustice and must never be forgotten.

"I for one work with our people and have helped them overcome issues which include alcohol and drug abuse domestic violence sexual assault and mental health related issues. To me these areas are more important than a date change. I am doing my bit for reconciliation within the community that I live and will support anyone that would like to walk that journey with me. This is my personal views."


Dean Loadsman from Grafton

Dean Loadsman
Dean Loadsman

Dean has never celebrated Australia Day. He thinks of the day as "Invasion Day" or Survival Day. He chooses to reflect on the fact that despite everything that has happened - frontier wars, massacres Stolen Generation and adverse government policy - Aboriginal people are still here. They have survived. Dean says "they should change the date to one that we can all celebrate - there is no real reason why they can't".



Where: at the riverbank near the Super Clinic.

Time: 6.30 pm until sunset.

Who: All our community is welcome to come along.

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