Statement on 26 January

Australia remains the only former British colony to celebrate its national day on the anniversary that colonisation commenced.

We stand alone in marking our national day on a day seen by First Nations and many other Australians as a day of sorrow; a date which commemorates an invasion and the first acts of dispossession.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said that all Australians need to reflect on exactly what we are celebrating.

“It is critical that we all take time to re-evaluate what we want our national day to represent and how we can create a better country, one that all Australians, including First Nations people, are proud to celebrate.

“On 26 January this year one of the things that will occupy my mind, as I reflect on my own family’s experiences since 1788, is how we bring more Australians with us on this journey of reconciliation?

“This process of re-evaluation is already happening, indicated by the large numbers of Australians who will join First Nations people in commemorating our survival and our often brutal shared history.

“Across Australia on 26 January we witness scenes that illustrate what a more united and reconciled Australia might look like as Australians in all their diversity attend Survival Day marches, concerts, festivals, and church services.

“There is a growing mood for change.

Ms Mundine said that as Australians consider these matters, we need to also recognise that important substantive changes are needed to improve the place First Nations people occupy in our society.

“We cannot fully celebrate as a nation while First Australians continue to lag behind other Australians on every social indicator, and when we have so little say in the policies that affect us.

“The Australian Reconciliation Barometer (ARB), survey of public attitudes, shows a growing awareness of the impact colonisation has had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with 86% of the general community and 89% of First Nations people now supporting Australians learning more about past historical issues which have affected First Nations.”

She said that the 2022 ARB also showed 41% of Australians (a 7% increase since the 2020 ARB), and 63% of First Nations people supported a change of date for Australia Day.

“The coming referendum to establish a constitutionally protected Voice to Parliament, the greater willingness we are seeing from Australians to recognise our history and participate in truth-telling activities and the moves towards developing treaties are all proof of a shift in national sentiment.

“It is increasingly clear that our current national day is unsuitable, and is supported by fewer Australians every year,” she said. On the 26 January this year I urge Australians to work towards a future united Australia, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s ancient history, and cultures are honoured as part of a just and reconciled nation.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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