Governments need to demonstrate leadership to ensure that Australia Day is on a date that can be celebrated by everyone, according to the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA).
Celebrating Australia Day on 26 January, which is known by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Survival Day or Invasion Day, is causing social and emotional distress, the association says.
The article below is by the co-chairs of AIPA, Tania Dalton and Professor Pat Dudgeon, and the association’s executive support officer, Tanja Hirvonen.
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Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association writes:
For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, Australia Day can be a day of mixed emotions. The way people feel and their reasons are dependent on their own stories, so therefore there is no right or wrong in this matter.
For many, the date of the 26th January represents a day on which people’s ways of life was forever changed and some may term this day, Survival Day or Invasion Day.
Others may choose to celebrate that the longest living Indigenous culture has survived for 60,000 years, and others may take pride in their Aboriginal and mixed heritage due to Australia’s vibrant multi-cultural population.
Whoever or however Aboriginal Australians choose to commemorate Australia Day, we wish to remind all that in the spirit of reconciliation, AIPA would like to respect the voices of many, and ask Australians to reflect on how we can create a day all Australians can celebrate.
In discussions about Australia Day over the past month and year, AIPA have been discussing the meaning with other stakeholders of the date and its significance for people in Australia.
When it comes to Australia Day in the media, there is some support for the day to continue, and overwhelming sentiment from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to change the date and not celebrate on this particular date. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are talking about a date that they see as a symbol of their dispossession.
Social media commentary has escalated in some areas to levels where it is unreasonable to expect any healthy debate or conversations.
AIPA hopes that we walk towards a shared future as all Australians, by having a national conversation about the Australia Day date.
AIPA fully acknowledge and understand that January 26 remains a day of mourning and pain for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the need for all of Australia to make important steps towards healing, but that our Governments need to create the space for this to happen.
We are calling for an action to discuss this so that we can have a day that is inclusive for all Australians to celebrate this great nation.
• Tania Dalton and Professor Pat Dudgeon are co-chairs of AIPA, and Tanja Hirvonen is the association’s executive support officer.
Background on AIPA
AIPA provides leadership on issues related to the social and emotional wellbeing and mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Psychology in Australia will be responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, values and belief systems and will be grounded in holistic Indigenous perspectives and the determinants of social and emotional wellbeing. The Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) is a group of Indigenous psychologists who are experts and knowledgeable on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders social and emotional wellbeing issues. They are committed to improving the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Links to services
If you are experiencing sadness or trauma, you are encouraged to seek out the following services and support:
- Lifeline on 131 114 or online (https://www.lifeline.org.au/). Or call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- For young people 5-25 years, call the Kids Helpline Helpline (https://kidshelpline.com.au/) on 1800 55 1800.
- For resources on social and emotional wellbeing and mental health services in Aboriginal Australia, see Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health Services in Aboriginal Australia: http://www.sewbmh.org.au/