What does 26 January mean?

Establishment of Aboriginal Tent Embassy on Australia Day, 26 January 1972. From left: Michael Anderson, Billie Craigie, Bert Williams and Tony Coorey. Photo by: Noel Hazard. Courtesy of: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Tribune / SEARCH Foundation

A message from Cheryl De Zilwa, CEO of Annecto. 

We are fortunate enough to live in the beautiful country that Australia is, with its unique fauna and flora, its warm people, and its ancient history and cultures going back to the dawn of time.

Two-hundred-and-thirty-four years ago, on 26 January 1788, the First Fleet and its European settlers entered the lands of the Eora/Darug peoples, in New South Wales. Every year events across Australia are held to commemorate this arrival. However, it is important to know that, while this date is a way for some to celebrate our nation, for many, 26 January is a reminder of the significant loss of life, culture, language and land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Indeed, this date has been a source of division for many years. On 26 January 1938, when Australia was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the British tall ships, Aboriginal people held the first Day of Mourning in Sydney at the Australian Hall in the Cyprus Hellene Club in Elizabeth Street. The Day of Mourning highlighted the exclusion of Aboriginal people from the Australian nation. Among the many prominent Aboriginal leaders attending were Jack Patten, the first president of the Aborigines Progressive Association, who chaired the meeting, as well as Yorta Yorta Elder William Cooper, who founded the Australian Aborigines’ League and had made Footscray his home in the late 30s.  

This year of 2022 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Erected in Canberra on 26 January 1972, the Embassy is the world’s longest protest for land rights, sovereignty and self-determination. On that day, Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Bertie Williams and Tony Coorey went to Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country (Canberra), and planted a beach umbrella opposite the Old Parliament House in protest against then Prime Minister William McMahon’s refusal of land rights. A sign on the umbrella read “Aboriginal Embassy”, to bring attention to the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples felt like aliens in their own land and were the only cultural group not represented with an embassy. 

In the spirit of healing, at Annecto, we celebrate the rich contribution individuals and groups bring to the Australian community and we embrace the diversity of our staff, the people we support and our community. 

We are fortunate to have relationships with Aboriginal people, organisations and businesses, including partnerships with Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC), the Children of Bomaderry Aboriginal Children Home (CBACH) and Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group. We also launched our new Annecto enterprise in December, Coolamon Journey, which aims to encourage and support the ongoing development of a diverse range of unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander small businesses operating across many different industries and sectors including emotional wellbeing, aged care, youth services, education and training, employment and arts and culture.  

On this day, we want to honour our partners, our staff and the people we support who identify as Australia’s First Peoples. While we recognise that a range of perspectives are held on Australia Day/Invasion Day/Survival Day, we acknowledge and pay our respects to Australia’s First Peoples and those who mourn their ancestors and/or celebrate survival as a result of the first wave of European arrival.  

We hope you may join in commemorating our deep and rich history and committing to the inclusion of and healing for all Australians.  

Annecto will hold an online yarn on Monday the 31st of  January to discuss the significance of 26 January and recognise the 50th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

On Wednesday 26 January, a special showcase of talented Stolen Generations Survivors, some of them from Kinchela Boys and Bomaderry Children Homes, and their descendants will perform at the annual Yabun Festival in Sydney. You can watch the performances live on the Yabun website from 12pm. 

NITV will also begin its coverage of 26 January events and discussions with a special Sunrise Ceremony from 6am and special programming in the days leading up to the public holiday.

Doing Business Together – A mini Aboriginal Summit, organised by Annecto and Coolamon Journey, December 2021

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