News National Interested in the Change the Date debate? Here’s how to show your support

Interested in the Change the Date debate? Here’s how to show your support

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It’s that time of the year again, when the polarising topic of what to do on January 26 dominates dinner table discussions around Australia.

The controversial date, which marks the arrival of a First Fleet ship at Sydney Cove in 1788, is known to many as Australia Day.

It’s a time to celebrate our modern, prosperous nation and to catch up with family and friends around a barbecue.

But to many First Nations people – and their increasingly vocal supporters – January 26 is known as Invasion Day or Survival Day.

It symbolises the start of colonisation, when British authorities began massacring tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Rather than celebrating, many First Nations people view that date as a time to mourn the past and call for action to address racial injustice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians protesting in 1988. Photo: Getty

Calls to change the date have grown over the past five years, but are still met with resistance from mainstream Australia.

Roy Morgan released polling on Monday night that showed 59 per cent of survey respondents want to refer to January 26 as Australia Day, but 41 per cent want it to be officially known as Invasion Day.

It is traditional each year for those who support the date change to attend protests in capital cities around the country.

If you want to contribute to the movement, but would prefer not attend a rally due to COVID-19 or other reasons, here’s what you can do.

Learn and share the truth about Australian history

White Australia has a black history that extends far beyond colonisation.

If you want to help the cause, read novels and essays by First Nations writers and academics and share what you learn.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is a good start, as is Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, a collection of childhood stories edited by Anita Heiss.

A depiction of Captain James Cook taking possession of New South Wales in the name of the British Crown, 1770. Photo: Getty

Before British colonisation, which led to the massacres of tens of thousands of Aboriginals, hundreds of clans had their own languages, lore, land management and customs.

This information was passed from one generation to the next through songs, Dreamtime stories, artwork and dance.

Ancient Indigenous cave paintings photographed in 1993 in Bathurst Island, one of the Tiwi Islands about 80 kilometres north of Darwin. Photo: Getty

Learning about their ancient cultures and practices is one way to help keep alive their traditions.

Other notable Aboriginal authors include Stan Grant, Professor Marcia Langton, Nakkiah Lui and Claire G Coleman.

Support Indigenous music

Tune into the live broadcast of music at the Yabun Festival on Koori Radio in Sydney (93.7FM) or stream it live here.

A group of Aboriginal men playing the didgeridoo, circa 1954. Photo: Getty
Archie Roach AM is a popular Gunditjmara and Bundjalung musician. Photo: Getty

You can also catch the top 100 Indigenous Australian songs on 3KND in Melbourne (1503AM) or stream it live here.

NITV has put together its Top 40 Survival Day playlist and has a Survival Day playlist on Spotify.

You can live-stream the Yabun festival here, and GetUp will live-stream the Meanjin march from its Facebook page.

Speak out

Contact your elected representatives to express your opinions about January 26.

You can also get involved with community discussions about how the date is marked in your neighbourhood.

You can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper explaining why you support #ChangeTheDate.

Speak to your boss about whether they would be happy for you to work the January 26 public holiday, or maybe swap it for another day later in the year.

Change It Ourselves offer practical tips on how to do this.


You can show your support by donating to an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation.

Here are some charities and organisations you may consider supporting:

  • Healing Foundation
  • The Indigenous Literacy Foundation
  • The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA)
  • ANTaR
  • Yalari
  • Justice for David Dungay Junior
  • Justice for Yuendumu: Inquiry on Police Shooting
  • Indigenous Crisis Response & Recovery

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