Most countries around the world celebrate a national day and Australia is no exception. Our national day, called “Australia Day” falls on the 26th January and marks the arrival of the First Fleet of convicts from England to Australia in 1788.
Not exactly an auspicious day to be sure – these poor convicts had been held in boats for many months prior to their departure from England, and then endured a 6 month trip across the oceans to the “end of the world”. Many did not survive the voyage. When they arrived the only signs of human habitation were the many hundreds of fires that could be seen on the beaches at beyond around the settlement of Port Jackson.
You can understand why the Indigenous population of Australia celebrate the 26th January as “Invasion Day”. It is agreed that Aboriginals lived throughout Australia for over 40,000 years. Like many countries around the world, Australia too has a not very proud record of the treatment of indigenous peoples (originally called Aborigines) and over the past 200 years efforts, some very misguided, have been made in good faith to help these first Australians.
Fortunately, in the early years of the 21st Century, official apologies have been expressed to these people and sincere efforts and positive action is being taken to improve the health and lifestyle outcomes for these disadvantaged and marginalised first people of Australia.
This brings me to the announcement on Australia Day of the Australian of the Year 2014 is Adam Goodes. Adam is a very proud Andyamathanha man from South Australia and is recognised for his leadership and advocacy in the fight against racism both on the sporting field and within society. Adam is highly respected by the Australian community for his positive role model and as a youth advocate for indigenous youth throughout the nation.
Adam is a quietly spoken 34 year old and has played football for most of his life. He is a four time member of the All-Australian football team, a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and has represented Australia in the International Rules Series on a number of occasions.
Together with his cousin and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin, Adam established the Go Foundation which empowers the next generation of indigenous role models in all walks of life. Adam co-chairs the foundation, focused on promoting education, employment and healthy lifestyles.
Adam’s appointment of Australian of the Year for 2014 is very timely as there is a growing wave of support by ordinary Australians to recognise Aboriginal people in the Australian Constitution. Until 1967, the constitution disallowed Aborigines the vote in Australia. After a majority yes referendum, the constitution was altered and aborigines have been voting since.
Thankfully there is bipartisan political support for Recognition and a referendum to amend the constitution, and an educational program has commenced to get the conversation started at a grassroots level, to support an eventual successful referendum.
The appointment of Adam Goodes as Australian of the Year 2014 is a giant step towards Recognition.