Team Talk - Antonio Te Maioha: Happy Australia Day? ... not yet.
HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY? NOT YET.
Not until the informed original people of this land say it’s so.
For me, a visiting indigenous person of another land colonised by invading harbingers of cultural destruction, my first experience of ‘straya day in Australia on the 26th of January was traumatic. My bed, head and heart really were burning. Enveloped in the majority culture here without a platform to express myself I couldn’t sleep at all that night. And it’s taken me till now to process this much.
The 26th of January is the arrival date to this land of the genocidal, holocaustal catastrophe that is uninvited colonisation.
But in this day n age people don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t realise how in their visibly dominant cultural matrix something so apparently harmless as celebrating Australia Day on the 26th of January can really hurt. In order to celebrate, at all in an inclusive way in which the people of the land can join in, the first thing that needs to happen is a date change.
Speaking of dates, it’s like a relationship.
If you're not listening to your partner; if you're not informing yourself of their needs and applying self-change in order to meet their needs you will remain in your own non-knowing bubble. If you are ignorant and you have the attitude of: “Lets all just be one- We’ll do it MY way”, you will offend your partner without even knowing it, because that’s not a partnership, it’s a dictatorship. Only in this case you killed your in-laws and told your partner to live in the kennel while you took over their house. Naturally, they will feel undervalued. Your relationship will breakdown. It will fall apart. You will separate. There will be consequences for them which if you choose to, you can ignore because you're in the homestead and they’re out of sight...
But this isn’t about making anyone feel like they gotta apologise for their people or feel guilty.
From the networks I’m connected to it is abundantly clear that we indigenous people want applied action from the folks that have become the majority in our lands. We want you as individuals to actively and intentionally focus towards up-skilling yourselves in terms of our needs, like a real relationship.
The over-arching system will not lead the way - we need you to; as an individual, as many individuals. We don’t want to hurt you into inaction - we don’t want angry stunned mullets - we want to spur you on to applied and focused intent.
In all our lands, the indigenous peoples of colonised countries are asking you to “dismantle the systems of oppression the initial colonisers built that you maintain and benefit from”. Drop your fear, accept and share.
Inevitably you will need to hear some straight-talk, and some of it might sting to start with, but you’ll pull through. Remember, it's not half as painful as having your genitals cut off by soldiers while your wife’s gang-raped in front of you and literally speared up her genitals 'til she dies, or seeing your babies thrown live into a fire, over a cliff, or getting their heads kicked off.
You will be okay.
All of us here in Australia are in a relationship in some way with the original people of this land because here we are on their land. Whether they are visible or not. So what we say and do can affect change.
And if there’s one thing of value we can do, it is LISTEN - listen and apply. It is for us to know and accept that, if they say “change the Australia Day date”, we fxcking well change the date. Learn the history: it is unHappy ‘straya and it’s sickening.
Change the date.
To say “happy ‘straya day” on the 26th of January is an affront to anyone with an ounce of informed humane empathy. It excludes the indigenous population and anyone else who is remotely woke.
It is equal to asking Jews to celebrate Hitlers birthday. It is.
Learn the history, and you’ll qualify that statement for yourself. It won't take long.
Change the date.
Don’t say sorry without follow up individual action. Apologies too often only serve to make the oppressor feel better about themselves and do little for the apology recipient.
Act. Apply. Reach out. Stretch. Further.
I speak because my silence would be a silence that enables ignorance, and uninformed ignorance can develop into normality. So I must speak, because that normality is nowhere worth being for anyone that is not the dominant dictating culture.
The brushed over gloss facade of ignorant liberalism is not dormant or asleep, it affects people, it hurts us, like cancer - though the carrier might be dormant and unaware they even carry the disease, the virus of ignorance itself is aggressive and contagious...
... so information is the antibody that we individuals can use to dissolve this systemic application of missed information. Information is the vaccine, information is the cure; is the solution.
Inform yourselves. Be the cure.
Change the date. Create a better Australia day for all,
But not on the 26th of Jan.
If being Australian is the YES vote and the acceptance of difference;
If being Australian is inclusive and celebrates Fred Maynard, Mabo, Cathy Freeman, Adam Goodes, all non-celebs and all Aboriginal nations;
If being Australian is up-skilling yourselves in your history and being active in a movement of change, in which you’ll find your empathy grow exponentially and your desire to learn and change self-perpetuate for the benefit of all;
If being Australian is teaching your children to Love -
To Love like Julian Wilson and swim towards your mate when he’s fighting off a shark;
Then Celebrate being Australian and Australia Day
But not on the 26th of January.
Do one thing that ACTIVELY SHOWS you value the indigenous people of this land -
Because they are always fighting off sharks.
Swim towards them.
Consult them. Do not dictate. Just Listen. Act. Apply.
Change the date.
Promote and support the idea of a date change across your social media platforms and in your conversations with family and friends.
Change the date.
Towards a real:
Happy Australia Day
ANTONIO TE MAIOHA Ngāpuhi, Tainui
Antonio is a former recipient of the Tau Mai e Kāpiti writers residency & has also written two Plays in Te Reo. Antonio was one of the writers on Velvet Stone's Māori language television series Kairākau. As a co-presenter on the TV Gardening show Kiwi Maara he translated all his own pieces to camera. He has a published book of short stories in both Māori and English and he is pleased to announce that they will be released soon.