Last year I learned the phrase “remember rightly”. In short it means that when recalling events from the past it is right to do so without bias and prejudice, being fair in our memories to everyone concerned.
As we approach Australia Day I want for the first time to remember Australia Day rightly.
So this Australia Day I recognise that 226 years ago the land we now call Australia was inhabited by over 400 indigenous people groups who had been here for as long as 30,000 years.
I recognise that an ambitious and perhaps even desperate English laid claim to discovering this land despite French, Portuguese and Dutch explorers setting foot here well before Captain James Cook in 1770.
I recognise that in January 1788 English ships landed at Botany Bay before moving to Sydney Cove on 26 January. A colony was formally proclaimed by Governor Phillip on 7 February 1788 at Sydney. He did this on the basis of Terra Nullius, the idea that the land belonged to no one and was unoccupied despite the presence of approximately one million people.
I recognise that unlike New Zealand, the NSW colonials never established a treaty with the indigenous peoples like that of Waitangi. At best negotiations were piecemeal. At worst there were no negotiations and land was claimed for cropping, housing and commerce with severe force, brutality and a disregard for life.
I recognise that initially emigrants to the colonies were mostly men who didn’t want to be here. Criminals often unjustly sentenced. My own Tasmanian forefathers, John Dunham and Thomas Smith, were two such men.
I recognise that despite our convict heritage and appalling and shameful treatment of our indigenous people, a great nation has been formed. An egalitarian democracy of people from nations all over the world. We are the envy of the globe. We are Australia Fair.
This Australia Day I believe it is right for me to expect that we will seek to correct the mistakes of the past, and as a people blessed do everything our democracy allows to ensure that with those who come across the sea we share our boundless plains.
Julian Dunham, proud citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia, 24/1/2015.