Many First Nations Australians will spend January 26 in remembrance of a painful history.

Community leaders: Wadandi elder Sandra Hill, Bindjareb Noongar George Walley and Pinjarup Noongar Elsie Ugle.
Community leaders: Wadandi elder Sandra Hill, Bindjareb Noongar George Walley and Pinjarup Noongar Elsie Ugle.

It wasn't until 1994 that January 26 was established as the date to celebrate Australia, but the new tradition falls on what has long been marked as a day of mourning for many First Nations people.

George Walley is a Bindjareb Noongar community leader who runs cultural tours to help people connect with Aboriginal culture and history. He said that although lots of good work had been done by local governments and organisations working together with First Nations people, January 26 was a day for remembering, not celebrating.

"That was the invasion of the British empire into the different nations here of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people," he said.

"That day changed our society into something where we experienced the generations of dispossession, the oppression, it just changed everything."

Mr Walley explained that before European colonisation, the many Aboriginal nations in Australia had all the elements of a functioning society.

"We had aspects of an education system, there was a health system that we had, law and governance systems, the belief system, that are part of any society," he said. "As we say, we've never given up the land. We never ceded."

Stolen generations survivor Sandra Hill is an elder of the Wadandi people, who are from the Busselton and Margaret River region.

She said she's planning to spend January 26 with "the mob" in Margaret River.

"On the 26th, I just go to ground. We just go and be together, because it's a lonely day here. A very lonely day," she said.

"We call it invasion day or survival day, because we've survived."

The National Australia Day Council is the government organisation which promotes Australia Day with the message, 'Reflect, Respect, Celebrate.'

Ms Hill said that although the message appeared inclusive, the historical significance of January 26 excluded many First Nations people from celebrations.

"White Australians will think, 'look, we're including them'," Ms Hill said.

"But they don't know about our past. They don't know the demolition of our culture, our family and our community, all because of that day, when that man set foot on our land."

Campaign for change: Last year's Invasion Day rally in Perth, Boorloo, drew a crowd of several thousand. Picture: Brianna Melville

Campaign for change: Last year's Invasion Day rally in Perth, Boorloo, drew a crowd of several thousand. Picture: Brianna Melville

Thousands are expected to turn up to the Australia Day Skyworks in Perth this year, while a large crowd is also expected at the annual 'Invasion Day' rally, which will be held during the day in Forrest Chase, Boorloo.

The date of Australia Day comes under the decision of the federal government, but several local councils in the eastern states, and Fremantle in WA, have changed the date of their local Australia Day celebrations.

"If you said, would you like us to change the date? Most of us would say yes," Ms Hill said. "It's just a date. It never used to be on a set date. Why can't they put it on another day, Foundation day or something? It's just mean-spirited."

Pinjarup Noongar yorga from Mandurah, Elsie Ugle, also said she wouldn't be celebrating on January 26.

Instead, she would be spending the day together with Indigenous women and girls (yorgas).

This story January 26 a 'lonely day' first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.