The 26th of January is Australia Day and a national holiday. Various events happen all over Melbourne, but some of these recognise that this day raises important issues about Indigenous culture in Australia. Survival Day events represent the resilience and contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who collectively make up the world’s oldest, continuous culture.
I attended the Share the Spirit festival, hosted by Songlines Music. This event has been running at the Treasury Garden since 2002. Together with similar events in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and elsewhere, they are amongst the biggest Indigenous cultural events in Australia.
The most recent Australian Census of 2011 finds that 548,400 people identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin, representing 2.5% of our national population. This was an increase of 21% since the previous Census in 2006. New South Wales has the highest number of Indigenous Australians (32%), while the Northern Terriory has the highest rate of Indigenous people as a proportion of the population of any state (27%). Victoria has the smallest proportion (1%).
In 2013, Michael Mansell, lawyer and activist from the Palawa, Trawlwoolway and Pinterrairer people, noted that “Australia is the only country that relies on the arrival of Europeans on its shores as being so significant it should herald the official national day."
In mid-January 2015, Former Australian of the year Dr Tom Calma, Aboriginal elder of the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group, argued that Australia Day, also known as Survival Day amongst Indigenous Australians (to recognise the resilience of Indigenous Australians despite colonialism), is an opportunity to learn about Indigenous history, something that is not formally acknowledged as part of our national celebrations.
Pictured here is raper PHILLY, WembaWemba man based in Melbourne, and winner of last year’s Unearthed, who was amazing onstage at the Share the Spirit festival. He had many skilled MCs join him as guests.