To celebrate or reflect? Mandurah community divided on Jan 26

JAN 26: The community adorned their boats with Australian flags to celebrate, whilst thousands of others attended protests and Invasion Day rallies. Photo: Sophia Holl, Brianna Melville.
JAN 26: The community adorned their boats with Australian flags to celebrate, whilst thousands of others attended protests and Invasion Day rallies. Photo: Sophia Holl, Brianna Melville.

What were your thoughts of the Australia Day celebrations held in Mandurah this year?

For many people in the community, it is a day of remembrance and reflection, not of celebration.

In a previous article on the Indigenous perspective of January 26, George Walley, a Bindjareb Noongar community leader spoke to the Mail on what this day represents to First Nations people.

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"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."

Community leaders: Wadandi elder Sandra Hill and Bindjareb Noongar George Walley.

Community leaders: Wadandi elder Sandra Hill and Bindjareb Noongar George Walley.

For others in the Mandurah community, January 26 represents an opportunity to gather as a community and enjoy the activities on offer.

One Mandurah local, Lauren McCarthy, said, "I love Australia Day. Generally the one time where you can be surrounded by the community and there's no drama."

Another, Emmanuel Ungat, said, "I suppose its a good day to celebrate with families, celebrate as a free nation equal to all."

However, for Sandra Hill, an elder of the Wadandi people from the Busselton and Margaret River region and stolen generation survivor, January 26 is not a day to celebrate.

"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."

For the Elliot family, January 26 is both a day of reflection and a day to enjoy with family.

TOGETHER: Mandurah welcomed 100 new Australian citizens on Jan 26. Photo: Claire Sadler.

TOGETHER: Mandurah welcomed 100 new Australian citizens on Jan 26. Photo: Claire Sadler.

"We've been talking about it. Maybe the morning could be commemorative and reflective, and the afternoon could be celebration as a way to balance all of the issues. We're not celebrating with the Australian flags, but it's a good opportunity to talk about the issues. We don't have the answers, but we were talking about how we could balance the day."

A spokesperson from the City of Mandurah commented on their decision to hold Australia Day celebrations, saying they will follow the Federal Government's directive.

"Given this is a Federal Government responsibility, the council has not taken an official position regarding the date, instead choosing to recognise this public holiday as a celebration of our diverse local community.

"We start our celebrations with a traditional smoking ceremony in Mandjar Square, we then welcome our newest citizens from all corners of the globe, we recognise our local champions who work tirelessly for the betterment of our community and finish off with various family activities designed to connect our local people with one another and with the beautiful environment Mandurah is so fortunate to enjoy."

The debate on January 26 and whether it should be a day of celebrations, or a different date entirely, continues.

What are your thoughts? Email editor@mandurahmail.com.au to have your say.