THIS year, for the first time, I’m going to fly the Aboriginal flag from my balcony on January 26. It seems the least I can do to acknowledge the sadness my Aboriginal brothers and sisters feel on this day.
As a white Australian baby boomer, I was educated in a system heavy with a view of past events that glorified this day as the birth of our nation. As a social worker, I have worked and practiced in the field of trauma response for 40 years. Yet it is only relatively recently that I have come to understand the depth of sadness passed from generation to generation of Aboriginal people. A history of massacres, dispossession of land, destruction of language and culture and forced removal of children was glossed over or disregarded in my education.
I know that the negative behavioural responses we see in many Aboriginal communities of today are the result of intergenerational trauma, a phenomenon well documented and evidenced in every colonised indigenous society. I know that I live a comfortable life underpinned by a privilege that my Aboriginal brothers and sisters have not shared.
The potentially divisive argument that is currently taking place about the suitability of January 26 as a celebration of a united Australia often ignores or discounts the reality of our violent past. It also often ignores the reality of the complex Aboriginal culture subjugated by European invasion, a culture in tune with the land and steeped in traditional lore. To see that culture as a doomed way of life waiting for European enlightenment is ill informed and offensive to many. Finding a day to celebrate a united Australia fully cognisant of its past and looking to the future shouldn't be that hard.
If you’re passing my balcony on January 26 and you see the Aboriginal flag, please look up and smile.
Helen Keevers, Mayfield
DON’T MAKE MAY 9 OUR DAY
IN response to Mark Kenny (Opinion 23/1) I hope this change never comes to fruition.
Mr Kenny makes many valid points within the article, perhaps the strongest argument that I have read yet regarding the change of date for Australia Day, but May 9 would not be much of a celebration with winter around the corner. Australia Day should be about celebrating what makes us all Australian regardless of ethnicity and why we are proud to call Australia home.
In my mind Australia is about sun, surf and relaxation. It’s about swimming, outdoor sports, slippery slides, gorgeous morning and long afternoons. May does not provide any of these. I propose the following stipulations: we should celebrate Australia in summer, but not December as there is too much happening already. It should remain its own public holiday, take advantage of daylight savings and fall during school holidays. Perhaps Australia Day doesn’t need to be a certain date at all - just a long weekend every year during summer.
Daniel Mackay, Cameron Park
BATH DAYS REMEMBERED
AS a former resident of the Newcastle Ocean Baths, where I lived with my mother Jeanette Walmsley and my stepfather Peter Walmsley, I am surprised at the way the baths has been let go.
Anyone who knew Peter would also know that the baths was not only his job, it was his pride and joy. Now my husband swims there almost every day, and he says it’s getting worse by the week.
We recently went to the baths on a cleaning day and it seemed nothing had been cleaned. The baths were closed from 6am and we were there at around 2pm. When Peter was there, the baths were not emptied until around noon, then thoroughly cleaned and usually filled back up overnight.
This past Sunday I was at the baths and I heard a little boy calling out to his father that he was going to the steps because it was too slippery to walk up one of the ramps. If children of that age are noticing how slippery it is, it really must be. I have spoken to many people who swim there on a regular basis and they all agree the council should take action on this.
I think I am safe to say how disgusted Peter would be to see the state of the place he used to refer to as Walmo's Water Wonderland. He hasn't been there for a visit for a while as he is now in a nursing home with dementia. Thanks Jeff Dawson and Dave Tinson for bringing this to the attention of the Newcastle Herald.
Sonya Mancinelli, Cardiff
IT COULDN’T BE WORSE
STEVE Barnett (Short Takes 24/1) asks, “which nation Greens and indigenous activists would have preferred settled here …”.
No doubt his inference is that life would have been far worse for Aboriginal people if other nations had populated this country. Instead of trying to rewrite history the fact remains that it was the British, the most powerful empire in the world at the time, that invaded. The greatest power on earth with the most deadly resources and thinking at its disposal tried dispossession, disease and even programs to breed Aboriginal people out of existence and failed.
This is testament to the strength and resilience and of Aboriginal Australians through recent history. And it also gives a great insight to why Aboriginal Australians on the whole today suffer such great disadvantage and still struggle for identity and equality in modern Australia.
Their fight continues. Things couldn’t have been worse for them, Steve.
John Arnold, Singleton
AN IDEAL CELEBRATION
MANY would agree with the thrust of Jeff Corbett (“The division is outdated", Herald 20/1) His argument put simply is get over it, get on with it, to join in equally as an Australian rather than perpetuate exclusive historical grievances.
January 26th marks the birth of our lucky country. The same date marks the beginning of the painful demise of an ancient culture with its inherent customs and belief systems. Certainly Aboriginal culture is recognised and celebrated in many ways throughout modern Australia, but grieving process that began then still lingers in manifest ways.
This grief may be alleviated, to some extent, by establishing a new date to celebrate our multi-cultural togetherness. What an honourable and sensitive gesture it would be if Aboriginal people could choose the day in the spirit of Governor Arthur Phillip’s instructions to treat Aboriginal people with "amity and kindness". This ideal is worth celebrating every day.