Welcome to this area,
People from all directions
Now when you leave
May our spirits stay with you.
Before a crowd of 20,000 people at Invasion Day in Queen’s Park in Meanjin (Brisbane), they sang Gari Gynda Narmi. It is originally a Waka Waka song, but with the dispersal and cross-pollination of aboriginal cultures (plus the fact it has easy to remember words and dance moves) means it has become a welcome song of all aboriginal nations in south-east Queensland.
Gari Gynda Narmi has appeared in a few rock versions too, in Mop and the Dropouts song “Dancing Aborigine” and a beautiful acoustic version by Joe Geia which helpfully includes an English translation!
The first full day of national protest on Invasion Day was in Sydney in 1938, two Quandamooka people represented Brisbane Blacks at that public meeting. Thus began the modern day struggle for Aboriginal land rights. In the early 1970s with the advent of the tent embassy in Canberra, the Aboriginal flag appeared. This was a flag of struggle and resistance, not a traditional flag but one that arose from the circumstances of the time.
The 2021 Invasion Day organisers, with their banner draped over Queen Victoria, raise a major impediment to progress in Australia, the Queen. We are not on the Queen’s land. We will be unable to become a nation until we get rid of the monarch. The second line of the national song is: “for we are one and free“. This is not true. We are not one, and never were – despite claims to the contrary by the Prime Minister. Only New South Wales was set up on 26 January 1788, this later incorporated the colonies of Port Phillip, Moreton Bay and Van Diemen’s land. Western Australia was left out altogether. We were never free and never will be free until we get rid of the monarch.
Acknowledgement of country
In 2010 Sam Watson gave an inclusive acknowledgement of country outlining the many nations that make up the south-east in Queensland, and raising a number of the issues. These same issues were addressed in the 2021 Invasion Day rally.
As one commentator put it: “Speakers spoke of the ongoing violence, systemic racism, deaths in custody and the cowardice of our political leaders in stepping up to the mark. There were calls for the abolition of Australia Day and the need for deep change.”
Back in 2010, this is what Sam Watson had to say:
The Invasion Date
… taking advantage of the results of all exploring expeditions, using new passages and all improvements in navigation;—charts to be studied, the position of reefs and new lights and buoys to be ascertained, and ever, and ever, the logarithmic tables to be corrected, for by the error of some calculator the vessel often splits upon a rock that should have reached a friendly pier—there is the untold fate of La Perouse. – Henry David Thoreau in Walden
Very few people know what happened in Australia on 26 January 1788. Many even get it confused with the arrival of a navigation and research vessel, the Endeavour, under the command of Lieutenant James Cook on April 29th 1770. It seems the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is as confused as the rest of us when he said in defence of celebrating Australia Day on 26 January:
“When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either,” he told reporters last Thursday.
It was on January 18th 1788 that the HMS Supply, carrying the new colony’s governor Arthur Phillip, landed at Botany Bay. It was on 26th January 1788 that two French ships, the Astrolabe and the Boussole, under the command of La Perouse (hence the name of the suburb) entered Botany Bay. Arthur Phillip had decided to go to Sydney Cove instead to set up the new penal colony of New South Wales. It was then that Phillip laid down the law to the convicts one of whom one was a 5th grandfather of Scott Morrison. If the convicts didn’t work they would not eat, Phillip told the men. I’m pretty sure the Pentecostalist Prime Minister is more in sympathy with Arthur Phillip than his convict grandfather no doubt labouring under the whip. Certainly that is the view of the Liberal Party and the class it represents. Who knows what the Labor Party thinks, they have lost their way, completely. All at sea, their leader, Anthony Albanese, has called for a referendum. On what we may ask?
Back in 1788, the women convicts had been left on the ships and did not come ashore for some time later.
Before we celebrate our identity we should first discover who we are. Australia has still not even decided that we are independent from the monarch let alone agreeing on what kind of republic we should become. While Scott Morrison sucks up to the Americans, we are a decidedly Asian country both geographically and increasingly culturally. But this was always so. The Chinese came here looking for sea slugs as early as the 15th century.
I have little time for nationalism, preferring an internationalist perspective. But the nation state still figures large in the Australian psyche.
After they arrived by sea and land, aboriginal people built over 500 nations across this ancient land in the Pleistocene (Ice Age). They managed to survive the ice age by hiding out in caves in South Australia.
Over time they built up a huge store of knowledge about this continent only to have it taken from them by the colonising British who had won the contest for the great south land from Dutch and French imperialists.
Much of that knowledge was lost; but now, concerted efforts are being made to regain the culture and understanding of our ancient past.
Malcolm Turnbull foolishly rejected First Nations People’s Uluru statement from the heart – an offer that may not be repeated, an opportunity for reconciliation lost. Turnbull’s reward was that the Australian government gave Turnbull an Australian of the Year award.
Meanwhile science and medicine are in struggle against a pandemic and climate change. Can globalised capitalism meet these challenges?
I think not, another economic and political system based on equality, truth, reconciliation, and social justice needs to replace the existing order.
So what happened to the French explorer, La Perouse?
He and his men were shipwrecked on their way home to France in the Solomon Islands, never to be seen again.
Covering Invasion day since 2010
Paradigm Shift has been covering Invasion Day for over ten years now, since 2010. Here is the first with announcers, Thomas and Eliza, when only a small crowd turned up at Parliament house all those years ago .
26 Jan 2021
January 26 and the fight for Australian national identity by Andy Paine