A WIMMERA Indigenous Elder has spoken out against the Change the Date movement, saying Australia Day should remain on January 26 despite growing controversy regarding the day’s significance.
Aunty Nancy Harrison, of Dimboola, is of Wotjobaluk descent and said the date should stay the same.
“I strongly don’t believe in (the Change the Date movement); it should be left as it is. I hope it never happens,” she said.
“Even if they change it, you can never forget January 26. It’s a bittersweet day, but I try not to think of where it originated.
“A lot of my relatives around here, and in Melbourne, don’t want to change the date. A lot of people in the Koori community believe it should just stay, because how can you forget it.”
She said she believed most of the Wimmera community was behind keeping the date the same.
“I can’t see it ever changing, not up here. Councils in Melbourne have changed their Australia Day events in the past and I think that’s disgusting,” she said.
“It’s very disappointing that a lot of the Koori community have got very radical with their ideas about it. They get these ideas and won’t listen to anyone else.
“It’s the older generations that always accepted it and they never had bad thoughts about it. Now every year there’s always a discussion around the controversy of Invasion Day – I don’t know where that came from – I think that’s ridiculous calling it Invasion Day.”
Barengi Gadjin Land Council chairperson Dylan Clarke said Barengi Gadjin didn’t have a position regarding the date.
“BGLC does not and will not have a formal position regarding January 26 until the appropriate process of consultation with the Full Group has taken place,” he said.
“It would be inappropriate for BGLC to provide a formal position without the informed consent and direction taken from our Full Group in a respectful transparent consultation and engagement process.
“BGLC remains optimistic and believe more education and interaction is needed to help bridge misunderstandings between the wider community, local Traditional Owners and Aboriginal people living on Country.
“By listening to both sides of an untold history we can be empathetic towards each other under the basis of understanding, even if we don’t agree.
“Both of our histories, black and white, should be shared, acknowledged and celebrated just like any other culture in the world but it’s imperative there is an openness to learning and all parties are willing to listening.”
Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister David Coleman announced plans to change the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code to require councils to host such ceremonies on Australia Day, January 26 and Australian Citizenship Day, September 17.
Aunty Nancy said she supported the decision. She will speak at Dimboola’s Australia Day ceremony on Saturday.
A poll on the Wimmera Mail-Times’ website last year asked readers whether they thought Australia Day should be changed from January 26.
A total of 89 people voted in the poll, with 70.79 per cent voting “No” to changing the date and 24.72 per cent voting “Yes”. Only 4.49 per cent voted “Undecided”.