Today – 26th January – is Australia Day. Dating back to 1788, the day marks the arrival of the British in New South Wales and in present times is widely viewed as a celebration of Australia’s diversity rather than colonialism.
Having said this, even if the day doesn’t actively celebrate colonialism, hiding from the true nature of Australia’s racist and imperialist history is hardly much better, since this nation-wide event does little to shed light on how the British came to conquer the land from its native peoples. Furthermore, it is arguable that commemorating the arrival of the British at all, white-washes the ugly truth.
Indigenous groups for example, have subsequently criticised the day, referring to it as “Invasion Day” as well as commenting that if Australia Day is truly meant for all Australians (including the indigenous population) then the date should be changed.
Protests such as these are often dismissed by white institutions, who tend to claim that anti-racist and/or de-colonial campaigners need to move on from history and make peace with the past. However, the actions that immediately followed the British landing on Australia in 1788 did not end in the 18th century. Australia’s deliberate and brutal policies against its non-white population framed its 20th century domestic policies and it goes without saying that the treatment of the Aboriginal community has been atrocious.
As recently as May 2015, protests broke out in Melbourne against the forced closure of ancestral Aboriginal communities in rural Western Australia. The closures have been compared to an act of genocide by the government.
The following recommended films address the racist, imperialist and xenophobic policies that continue to plague indigenous and non-white Australian communities, even as Australia’s diversity is being celebrated today. They are moving and enraging and if you were not previously skeptical of the happy, laid-back image of Australia before, you will be after watching.
First up we have Our Generation (2010) a documentary film about Aboriginal communities living in the northern territories and fighting against assimilation policies in order to maintain their ancestral way of life:
The next film is the second part of a three part BBC series called Racism: a History (2007). We have posted this series before, however we want to point out specifically the segment in the second part of the series that deals with the ethnic cleansing of Aboriginal communities from Tasmania.
The third film we’re sharing is the first part of the Australian documentary series Immigration Nation (2011), which actually begins at the very start of the 20th century, detailing Australia’s long battle to try and become a more multi-cultural society. Find part one below and go to the SBS website for more information about the series.