WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains names, images or descriptions of people who have died.
January 26, Invasion Day, Day of Mourning — our official national holiday is many things but it is not a day for celebration. Here is VICE’s guide to marking the significant day, without being a dickhead.
People have been gathering to mourn and protest celebrations of colonisation since the first Day of Mourning in 1938. It’s a tradition much older than Australia Day itself. Although January 26 has long been marked as a day of celebration too, Australia Day only officially became a national public holiday in 1994.
Here is an extensive list of protests in each state.
If you can’t be at a march, watch a live stream
Not everyone can attend, but there are other ways to show up.
Pay the rent
Donate to First Nations organisations
Google some, you have the power.
Go to work
Like any other normal day of non-celebration, just go to work like the cog you are. If your boss is forcing you to take the public holiday, treat the day with some respect.
Have meaningful conversations
Engage with your friends and family on the day about what it means to live on stolen land. If you, or they, have any gaps in knowledge, try to fill them together. It might be uncomfortable to have these conversations, it’s meant to be.
If you’re still confused about why it’s not a day for celebration, look it up. Do not burden First Nations people with your ignorance today, there’s plenty of information online for you to find yourself.
Follow First Nations media outlets, journalists and content creators
There is so much information at our fingertips. Here’s a list of excellent Instagram accounts to follow.
Go to the library
Don’t like scrolling? Pick up a book or check out some historical records, especially on the Frontier Wars and massacres. Find the truth, it’s in front of you.
Learn about the Waterloo Creek Massacre, specifically
Yet another reason why January 26 is not a date to celebrate.
Learn the proper place names of the land you live on
Once you’ve learnt it, make a connection with the community. Find out what events they have on throughout the year and go to them.
Do a bush or beach clean-up. Care for the Country
Get some friends (or go solo) and pick up rubbish around your local park, beaches or bushlands. First Nations people have cared for this land for over 65,000 years, do your part, it’s your rubbish.
Stream and listen to First Nations music
Barkaa, Thelma Plum, Nooky, Kobi Dee, A.B Original, Alice Skye, Emily Wurramara, Uncle Archie Roach, Tasman Keith, Electric Fields, Ziggy Ramo etc. etc.
Read interviews with First Nations artists
We dance to their music and we revel at their gigs, but go a little deeper and listen to what else they have to say.
Support Blak businesses
Shop Blak, wear Blak, support Blak. Buy Bla(c)k is a not-for-profit online directory to First Nations-owned brands.
Eat Indigenous food, cooked by Indigenous people
Indigenous ingredients have been co-opted by white Australia. It seems like everyone puts finger lime on cured fish or wattleseed in granola now. And while it is a privilege to eat such delicious and beautiful foods, the vast majority of what we in cities can consume is farmed by colonisers and likely cooked by them too. Support restaurants whose kitchens are run by First Nations people, and whose profits flow back to community.
Listen to a podcast
Start with: Frontier Wars - Boe Spearim, Not So PG - Brooke Blurton and Matty Mills, Blak Magic Woman - Mundanara Bayles, TalkBlack, Truth Telling - Lidia Thorpe, and Coming Out Blak.
Watch First Nations-made/focused documentaries
Start with: Still We Rise, Sweet Country, The Australian Dream, First Australians - The Untold Story of Australia, and Incarceration Nation.
Learn about the First Nations origins of our national sport
Yes, AFL is derived from an Aboriginal game called Marngrook, meaning “game ball” in the Woiwurrung language — but there are names for the game in about 300 languages.
Historians believe one coloniser, Thomas Wills, who grew up in Moysten in western Victoria alongside the local Djab Wurrung kids, played the game as a child and later took the concepts to Melbourne. He went on to write the first official set of AFL rules in 1859 with six other members of the Melbourne Cricket Club.
But the AFL has harboured racism ever since. If you watch the sport, you ought to find out how.
Hold space for First Nations people
If you have any Indigenous friends or family in your life, reach out to them. Jan 26 is a fucking terrible day for them and they will probably be feeling a lot of emotions. Support and comfort them, but don’t put your emotions and feelings onto them.
Reflect and act on ways to help First Nations people every day, not just on Jan 26
Use this day as an opportunity to reflect on how you can become a better and active ally to Indigenous people in this country.
Connect with Country
Go out bush for the day. Disconnect from your phones and listen to nature. Take in the beautiful Country that we are privileged to live on. Acknowledge the land you’re on and First Nations people who allow you to be on Country.
Create a native garden
Find out what native flowers and plants are suitable to your area and create a little flowerbed/garden with them. Buy seeds or seedlings from Blak-owned businesses — not Bunnings.
Learn about Traditional fire practices
No one knows this land better than First Nations Custodians as they’ve cared for it for thousands of years. Traditional burning is more controlled, helps prevent fire risks, rejuvenates local flora, protects native animal habitats and restores kinship to land.
Analyse government policies
Read up on policies and bills currently in place or have been introduced that affect First Nations people and critically analyse what they aim to achieve. Will it actually help Mob?
Learn about Settler Colonisation and your place in it
Colonisation was not a one-time thing, it isn’t over and it still affects every part of First Nations people’s lives. It is an embedded structure that works to damage the livelihoods of Indigenous people. Recognise your place in it and figure out what part you can play in dismantling it.
Ky Stewart is a Kamilaroi and Dharug writer and producer who has written for Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker Australia. Follow Ky on Instagram here, or on Twitter here.
Aleksandra Bliszczyk is a Senior Reporter for VICE Australia. You can follow her on Instagram here, or on Twitter here.