An Australia Day that I Could Give Myself To…

by joelmckerrow

I was born in a land where red dust still gathers under pavement city streets. In towns built by the hands of those who do not belong here. And they were my hands. And they were the hands of my fathers.

I am from convict and from settler, from those who stole the land. And I am shamed by this history. I am ashamed of how little we have done since. I am ashamed that we still celebrate Australia on the very day that marks the dispossession and theft of land from an entire continent of people.

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I cannot speak of my love of this land shy of lament for what has gone before, for what continues to this day. And I know there is no way to go back and make it right. No way to undo the centuries of oppression. The truth of a genocide in this land of sweeping plains. That which never made it into my school books. I guess it is easier to study the World Wars, turn our eyes to Hitler and to Stalin, to wars where we fought the evil ones, rather than when we had become them. It is easier to ignore the terror in these lands, the terror born of these hands, when slaughtered to near extinction Victoria’s population was reduced from sixty thousand to two thousand in thirty years.

So dangle your feet a little while with me on the edge of this river. Where the water meets the city. The Yarra. Birrarung. She has been here so many years. An aged sage compared to the pimple-faced puberty of the city. Ancient in her wisdom. She watched on that day, when the white fellas came, felt the stain of blood and bullets through watery skin. She watched on that day and she wept those years. A watery tomb she became. She still remembers her name. Birrarung. She turned the colour of their skin, to honour their passing.

Birrarung, she still runs red. She collects the blood and the dust every night, holds them in her waters that we would remember. We must remember. Every morning she flows out to sea that we would move forward. We must move forward. We cannot go back. I sit and am held by this history.

I still swim in the myth of all that we hope for.
A fair Australia.
A common-wealth.
A reconstitution of the honour that is due to our indigenous brothers and sisters.
A government that makes policies which uphold justice and equality.
Boundless plains to share.
A land that I could be proud of.
An Australia day that I could give myself to.
We must remember.
We must move forward.
Together.
I still swim in the myth of all that we hope for.

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