By Helen Morgan
Every year Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th January. It commemorates the day on which the British flag was raised by Governor Arthur Phillip at Sydney Cove. In doing so he founded the colony of New South Wales. At the same time he began the dispossession and marginalisation of the indigenous Australian people who had inhabited the land for over 50,000 years.
Although the flag was raised as early as 1788, it wasn’t until 1935 that all Australian states and territories used the name Australia Day. It took another 59 years before the 26th January would become a public holiday across the nation.
The tradition of celebrating on the 26th January began in New South Wales in the early 1800’s. It was referred to by various names over the coming years including First Landing Day and Foundation Day. Other colonies – namely South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania – celebrated their own colonial foundations which took place on other dates. It was another 100 years before the states and territories agreed to the common name of Australia Day and timed it to fall in January.
The history of Australia involves a long period of conflict that followed colonisation right up until the 1960s, as well as government policies of assimilation, separation and dispossession of the indigenous Australian people.
During this time many Aboriginal tribes were removed from their traditional lands and forbidden from practising their language and culture. Many had their children taken from them and put into care in the mistaken belief that they were being removed from poverty.