Culture

Australia Day: PM describes Indigenous Australians as ‘great overcomers’

Scott Morrison says Indigenous Australians overcoming of colonisation is perhaps the greatest Australian story but insists all stories are important on Australia Day. The Prime Minister came under fire last week for saying January 26 1788 “wasn’t particularly flash” for convicts arriving either as he defended Australia Day remaining on that date.
But speaking on Australia Day, Mr Morrison described Indigenous Australians as some of “the greatest overcomers of all our peoples in this country”.
Mr Morrison said his message on Australia Day, seen by many as Invasion Day, was partly one of “recognition and understanding” for the experience of Indigenous Australians.
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“One of the greatest overcomes of all of our peoples in this country have been our First Nations peoples,” he told 2GB Radio on Tuesday.
“I think this story of overcoming is one of if not the greatest Australian story, and it’s one that we can all come together and acknowledge.”
Later at a citizenship ceremony, the Prime Minister acknowledged a “price has been paid for our freedom”, describing January 26 as the day “this land changed forever”.
“There is no escaping or cancelling that fact, for better or worse, it was the moment where the journey to our modern Australia began,” he said.
“We are now a nation of more than 25 million stories. All important, all unique and all to be respected.
“Whether it is the story of our First Nations peoples’ strong, ancient and proud culture and their survival in the face of dispossession and colonisation.
“Or the forsaken souls who came as convicts, not to start a new world but because they had been banished from the old one, condemned and outcast by empire. They too overcame.”
Mr Morrison has rejected calls to move Australia Day from January 26, arguing the date acknowledged both the “sorrow and redemption” … (of) a continuing Australian journey”.
New Australian of the Year Grace Tame join a chorus of voices calling for the date be moved after receiving the honour on Monday.
“In the case of Indigenous Australians and First Nations people, this date, Invasion Day, is a huge symbol,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“And it costs us nothing as a nation to actually change that date. And it would mean a lot to that community and to our national community. I think that’s important.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has pushed for constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. and remained open to a proposal from Indigenous activist Noel Pearson to have commemorations on two days.
“It seems to me that we do need to have a day in which everyone can celebrate,” he said on Tuesday.
“I think that it’s time to have a debate about how we move forward in a way that truly unites a nation, one that recognises dispossession but one that also recognises that modern Australia has continued to evolve and will continue to evolve into the future.”
He said Australia Day was a “different experience” for Indigenous Australians, who were reminded of the dispossession that came after the arrival of the First Fleet.
“We need to acknowledge that and respect that. For the First Australians you can understand that this is a very difficult day for them,” he said.
“It’s one of heartache and one in which they recognise what occurred to their people.”