Today is our Nation’s birthday.
Or so we are told.
It is the day Sydney was unilaterally declared a British colony.
It was also the beginning of a near quarter of a millennium of extirpation, oppression and dispossession of the original inhabitants.
If, as the words in the song claim, we are all one, surely there should be some recognition of the manifest wrongs done to our indigenous peoples who were considered to be Fauna until late in the 20th century. Yet that was how conquering Nations have always acted, right back to the beginnings of human ‘civilisation’.
Conquest and slavery, dispossession and wealth stealing were what this post-hunter-gatherer world of Homo Sapiens was all about. Our national memories only go back a few hundreds of years although what we see there is what was there for thousands of years!
It was what it was.
And it stretches far back into the histories of many peoples, Egyptian, Greek, Roman civilisations were all built on slavery. As was the USA. North Africa was notorious for taking European slaves from any vessels they were able to capture. Tunisia was the first nation to sign a treaty with the then newly formed United States of America. It was a treaty to stop capturing USA citizens and selling them as slaves.
The Middle East, like Africa, was divided up into false nations by greedy Europeans and those arbitrary borders have created a great deal of grief for the world.
We cannot go back and change what our ancestors did, yet we can recognise the pain, the loss and the disruption. We can resolve to try to help those who were impacted find their way to the self assurance and sense of place which has been stolen from them.
We can recognise that the problems we see today, have their roots in the past and will need understanding, not condemnation, if they are to be resolved. Not just in Australia but world-wide.
Today we can make a start here on the continent we inhabit by replacing hate with care, racism with acceptance and rhetoric with action.