Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 26: White Australia has a Black History

Dear friends,

as you know this blog is primarily dedicated to providing updates, news and information about Palestine.  Today, however, my post is specifically about Australia and the 227th anniversary of the European colonisation and ethnic cleansing of this country.  

January 26, which official marks the day of European colonisation of Australia is a national holiday sanctioned by the Australian government. For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Australia, it is marked as Invasion Day and/or Survival Day.  In 1936, on the 150th anniversary of European colonisation, when official ceremonies were held around the country to celebrate, courageous members of the Aboriginal Community instead marked the anniversary with a Day of Mourning.

As I have noted before on this blog, one of the reasons I became active in the Palestine solidarity campaign was because I saw the similarities between the Indigenous struggle of the Palestinian people and the struggle of Indigenous Australians.  Coming from a family of mixed heritage (my mother is Aboriginal and my father comes from a mixed European background), my first engagement with political activism was around Aboriginal and Indigenous rights and the struggle for land rights and justice in this country.

In 2012, I wrote a longer post which discusses in more detail the history of Aboriginal resistance in Australia to European colonisation (click here to read). I noted at the time:

Aboriginal Australians have been no different from the Palestinians in fighting back against ethnic cleansing and settler-colonisation. Our people actually carried out an extensive armed resistance to European settler colonialism. This resistance began the moment Cook set foot on Australian soil in 1770 – the Gweagal people attacked Cook’s landing party with spears and woomeras. From that moment on Aboriginal resistance never ceased.
You can also read my post from 2014 marking Invasion Day by clicking here.

Like many other peoples, the struggle of Aboriginal Australia and the Torres Strait Islander people has been documented through cultural production, including paintings, art, song, dance and more. Today to make Invasion Day, I am posting up NITV's play list of "40 songs to mark Survival Day" / Invasion Day. The songs are predominately by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander singers, but also include a small number by non-Indigenous performers as well.  

I have embedded 5 of the songs, which are amongst my favourite out of NITV's play list, as well as 1 other song which also reflects upon why celebrating on January 26 is problematic.

I will also post another post later today with photos from the Invasion Day protest here in Melbourne.



In solidarity,


1. We Have Survived - No Fixed Address
2. Treaty - Yothu Yindi
3. Thou Shalt Not Steal - Kev Carmody
4. Tiddas - Anthem
5. Genocide - Us Mob
6. The Dead Heart - Declan Kelly Ft. Emma Donovan Version
7. The Children Came Back - Briggs & Gurrumul Version
8. Simplified - Zennith
9. Freedom - Pat Mau Ft. Archie Roach
10. Aboriginal Land - Nadine Dixon
11. Took The Children Away - Archie Roach
12. BlackFella/Whitefella - Warumpi Band
13. Let My Children Be - Ruby Hunter
14. My Brown Skin Baby They Take Him Away - Bob Randall
15. Black Boy - Coloured Stone
16. Nothing I Would Rather Be - Jimmy Chi
17. From Little Things Big Things Grow - Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly
18. Solid Rock - Goanna
19. Beds are Burning - Midnight Oil
20. Yorta Yorta Man - Jimmy Little
21. Are You With Me Out There! - Brotha Black
22. Gathu Mawula Revisited - Gurrumul & Blue King Brown
23. Carl Stewart Band - Journey
24. Michael Charlton - See My Home
25. My Island Home - Christine Anu Version
26. Stranger In My Country - Vic Simms
27. Yil Lul - Joe Geia
28. Blackfellas - Local Knowledge
29. Aboriginal Woman - Mixed Relations
30. Dancing in the Moonlight - Johnny Huckle
31. Brisbane Blacks - Mop & the Dropouts
32. My Blood My People - Patrick Mau
33. Black Baptism - Radical Son
34. Black & Deadly - The Last Kinection
35. Standing Strong - Yung Warriors
36. Changing - Deline Briscoe
37. Nyul Nyul Girl - Dan Sultan
38. Way Home - Merindi Schrieber
39. Loveolution - Green Hand Band
40. Vision - Lajamanu Teenage Band

Last Kinection

Last Kinections irreverent remake of Peter Allen's well known anthem, I Still Call Australia Home is also one of my favourites. The original Peter Allen song was popularised once more in the 1990s when QANTAS, Australia's national airline used it in one of their adverts.  Last Kinection's remake of the song, parodies not only the original version but also seeks to redress the whitewashing of Australia's colonial history (I have included two videos versions of the song as the sound is not terrific on the live version due to static).

Archie Roach (1990)

A beautifully haunting song by Archie Roach documenting the Stolen Generation, the racist
miscegenication policy which saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families as part of the attempt to "smooth the dying pillow" and bred out Aboriginality.  Roach's song is also autobiographical as he, along with his siblings, were part of the Stolen Generation who were stolen from their parents in the 50s. In Roach's case, he and his siblings were placed in an orphanage and then foster care. As a young adult, Roach attempted to reconnect with his parents and family and like many other young Aboriginals in the same situation found this not an easy task.

Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly (1991) (performed with Missy Higgins)

Without a doubt From Little Things, Big Things Grow by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly is one of my all time favourite political songs - documenting the courageous struggle of Vincent Lingiari and the Gurinjdi people. The song always moves me and brings me to tears.

Yothu Yindi (1991) 

"Treaty” was composed by the members of Yothu Yindi in collaboration with Paul Kelly and Peter Garret from Midnight Oil.  The song  protested the failure of the Australian Government to honour the promise made by  Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Barunga Festival to enact a Treaty with Indigenous Australians.  The song incorporates traditional Aboriginal music and dance called "djatpangarri" which was pioneered by young men at Yirrkala in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory in the late 1930s and was performed there for popular entertainment until the early 1970s.


Christine Anu

Written by Neil Murray from the legendary Warrumpi Band in 1985 about Elcho Island in Arnhem Land where band mate, George Burarrwanga, hailed from.  The song was re-recorded in 1992 by Christine Anu, who had been a backing singer for the band. Anu, whose mother is from the Torres Straits, changed some of the lyrics to reflect her family's history.


David Beniuk (1988)

David Beniuk is a Australian folk singer and this song is from his 1988 album, UnAustralian Folk songs.

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