7 things to think about this Australia Day

There are two sides to the story of what January 26 really marks for Australians. It’s confronting, but important.

Let's Do This

60,000 BCE

Humans reach Australia making Indigenous Australians custodians of the world’s oldest living culture.

Illustration of a tall ship

Fact #1

January 26 isn’t when Captain Cook landed - and it’s not when Australia began.

1770

More than 500 Indigenous groups inhabit the Australian continent - about 750,000 people.

1770

Captain Cook declares Australia terra nullius - nobody’s land.

1788

The First Fleet anchors in Sydney Cove on January 26.

Illustration an indigenous man

Fact #2

On January 26 we’re not celebrating a peaceful process of colonisation.

1800s

The Indigenous population is diminishing: mass shootings, people driven off cliffs, food laced with arsenic, frontier wars and the introduction of disease.

1856

Melbourne newspaper publishes: “In less than twenty years we have nearly swept [Indigenous people] off the face of the earth.”

1900

It’s estimated the Indigenous population has been reduced by 90%.

Illustration of a scroll

Fact #3

The Australian Constitution deliberately excludes Indigenous people.

1901

Australia officially becomes its own nation. Parliament introduces the White Australia policy.

1901

Indigenous people are referenced twice in the Constitution: to state they won’t be counted in the census and that they need “special laws”.

1910

Many Indigenous children are being forcibly taken from their families.

Illustration of a raised fist

Fact #4

Indigenous people have protested January 26 celebrations since the 1930s.

1930

The Australian Natives Association (white Australian men) campaigns to make the Monday closest to January 26 a public holiday for Australia Day.

1938

A ‘Day of Mourning and Protest’ is organised as Sydney celebrates 150 years of colonisation.

Illustration of an Aboriginal Flag

Fact #5

Protests about January 26 were part of a wider Australian civil rights movement

1965

Student Action for Aborigines (SAFA) organises a bus tour of outback NSW, uncovering racism in rural communities.

1967

90% of Australians vote “Yes” to amend two parts of the Constitution that exclude Indigenous people.

1972

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is established on the lawns of Parliament House.

Illustration of the Australian flag

Fact #6

Our national symbols aren’t old - and they don’t embrace Indigenous culture.

1971

The Aboriginal flag becomes widely adopted.

1984

Australians cease to be British Subjects. Advance Australia Fair replaces God Save the Queen.

1988

40,000 Australians march the streets of Sydney on January 26 to celebrate the survival of Indigenous people and culture.

1994

January 26 is officially made a national public holiday.

Illustration of black and white shaking hands

Fact #7

Deciding what to do about January 26 is complicated - but it’s possible if we do it together.

26 Jan 2017

Certain local councils try to change the date of their citizenship ceremonies.

They are forced by the government to change them back. Some are even stripped of their rights to hold citizenship ceremonies.

Record numbers of people attend Invasion and Survival Day protests around the country.