Jan 25, 2018

How Australia Day echoes the 1948 exodus of Palestine

The parallels between Australia and Israel are particularly obvious on January 26, writes Randa Abdel-Fattah.

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Freelance writer

Still from 1977 Australian film Dot and the Kangaroo

In my box of childhood memorabilia is a 1988 "Bicentennial Memento for School Students". I was nine years’ old when the government issued this heritage medallion to Australian students. My family and I were visiting my father’s family in Kuwait during the Bicentennial celebrations. We watched the news of the massive Sydney protest march held on Australia Day. It didn’t make sense to me. I was too young then to realise I had a reference point to understand dispossession and land theft. Indeed, we were in Kuwait because my Palestinian family was denied the right to live on their land in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

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18 thoughts on “How Australia Day echoes the 1948 exodus of Palestine

  1. intouch

    Thank you, Randa. I shall be there with you in whichever march we take part tomorrow.

  2. Lee Tinson

    So tell me this: will non-aboriginal Australians ever be recognised as Australians by the First Australians? If the answer to this is affirmative, then there is no solution.

    What about mixed-race Australians? Even if they choose to identify as First Australians, they still have a problem.

    And why do the First Australians even want to call themselves ANY sort of Australian. Wouldn’t they want it called whatever it was called before the invaders called it Australia? Was it actually called anything, or is that not part of the culture?

    Finally, why does any First Australian born after me get to call themselves “first” when I was here before them?

    I find this whole discussion specious.

    1. Zeke

      I think you find the discussion specious because you don’t understand it at all. The first PEOPLE in this land call themselves by their people’s name. My neighbour is Worimi.
      What do they call this land? It was a part of them and they of it. They understood symbiosis. We still don’t, as is obvious by your understanding of people and land.

      1. Lee Tinson

        I believe I do understand the symbiosis you speak of. I was born in this land. I’m a part of it, and it of me.
        And I did ask the question as to whether the first PEOPLE had a name for this land. Your comment doesn’t address this, and it was a real search for knowledge: not a throw-away line.

        Seems to me you don’t understand any more than I do.

        However, that’s not the point. You ignored my first two paragraphs, which is where the specious nature of the discussion is. Because, you see, (or maybe not), all being the first means is that the first FLEET, representing a foreign invader, are accused of being a bunch of thieves, murderers and usurpers. Now, I don’t really have a problem with that (ie I guess from one standpoint it’s not wrong). I am sure that all invaded nations all over the world feel that way about their invaders. But to continuously, year on year, seize the opportunity to
        try to guilt out non-aboriginal Australia for even still being here is at best unproductive but more likely to seriously damage the credibility of whatever the REAL agenda is.

        From where I stand, if we’re born here we’re Australians and natives of this land.

        Consider this: what happens if, say, China decides it wants to own Australia? Just think what they might do to all the non-Asians they find here. The first thing they won’t put up with is non-Asians continuously insulting their culture, demanding reparation, and telling them to “go back where they came from”.

        It just seems to me that the whole push behind changing the date is wrong-headed and irrelevant. No other date to commemorate that event can be acceptable either, because the event itself is unacceptable.

        So, Zeke, what is it I don’t understand, apart from what I said I didn’t understand? Hint: “everything” is the wrong answer.

      2. greg jb

        bullshit Zeke… it was a neolithic like existence especially in central Australia.
        The day was spent in search of food and defending what ever water was available, if environmental conditions exerted more than usual stress, people died.
        Pre-colonization Australia was not some “golden age” of milk and honey, it was brutal survival of the fittest.

    2. Richard

      Perhaps you need to look into the issue a bit more?
      The first thing is to be recognised as an equal, with equal rights and expectations for a reasonable life. Like any other human being. Once those rights are acknowledged then I doubt very much that there will be any problem with the name of the continent we all live on.

  3. phonakins

    Must re-watch Dot and the Kangaroo. I was in kindy when I got that “medal” and so watched Dot many times

    1. phonakins On you tube!

      also didn’t meant to make that a response to your comment Lee. Just being incompetent today 🙂

      1. Lee Tinson

        It’s all good.

  4. pippin

    We have to move past this. In some way nearly everyone has been dispossessed at some time. Think of the Scottish Clearances. The Irish Great Potato Famine. How about Attila the Hun. The millions of Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese displaced by earthquakes and flood. The answer is to get on with it, hunker down, form new alliances and breed a new type of human. Without prejudice, national loyalties or religious restrictions.

    1. Guust Flater

      I am not sure that a new type of human who forsakes ancestry, culture and heritage is a complete human being. Sounds a bit like a robot. Our past is part of who we are. If you have no connection to land or society or family, you are poor in some respect. All that is required is respect and acknowledgment of differences, and not to take anything from people that they are not willing to give, or cannot give.

    2. John Hall

      The idealist in me wants this. The realist says we MUST do something or be damned by history and morality. The Aboriginal connections to this area go back eons compared to most areas of the world, excepting Africa. From any decent historians perspective the First Fleet was an invasion and we should all acknowledge that before we can have any real discussion. I have a First Fleet ancestor and have found no record of a visa been issued – that said he clearly didn’t want to be removed from his original homeland either & they at least paid his fare out to here.

  5. [email protected]

    It is important to note this has changed to a large degree. When i was at school in the 1990s we learnt all about indigenous Australians and the european arrivals, disposessing etc. So i really loathe to see 70s kids retelling their education as if it is the same today – it is not.

  6. Damon

    I had never heard the expression ‘a land without a people for a people without a land.’ It has its own Wikipedia article:

    Parallels with the doctrine of terra nullius indeed! Thank you for your article, Randa.

    1. Richard

      Try “Married to another Man” by Ghada Karmi

  7. wendlee

    I have never celebrated the “first violation” and I totally disagree that Australians are asked to celebrate invasion. By who? It has never been part of any Australia Day event I have attended and I have attended celebrations every year for the last 15 years. Local Indigenous peoples always have a key role in the celebrations and we celebrate and rejoice in the blessings we all share as people from many origins. It is a time of coming together to acknowledge the outstanding people in our community and the beautiful country we live in together. Australia Day is celebrating diversity and opportunity.

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