Australia

Australia Day: Two Sides of the Story

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Olana Osborn is a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and an ISA Photo Blogger. She is currently studying and interning abroad with ISA in Sydney, Australia.

Australia Day, known by the Aboriginal community as ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day,’ has a very rich history. For some, it is a day full of celebration, but for others, Australia Day serves as a reminder of when the world’s oldest civilization started their journey off of the map.

For 97% of the population, this once-penal colony has been their home for generations, and the crowds give their country the recognition it deserves…for a whole day, a nation laughs, parties, and makes memories to last a lifetime (or at least until the next ‘Straya Day).

January 26th, 1788, is the day Britain’s First Fleet arrived to New South Wales. Uneasy relations with the Aboriginal community began almost immediately. Due to the British ‘invasion’ of Australia, the previous one million aboriginal peoples has dwindled down to a mere three percent of the country’s population. Modern Australians who identify as Aboriginal seldom have plans to celebrate Australia Day. Instead, they celebrate the Aboriginal culture that is left today.

Max, the elder of the Gadigal people who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area, celebrates Survival day at Yabun, the Aboriginal festival that recognizes the indigenous population still living in Australia.

Max, the elder of the Gadigal people who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area, celebrates Survival day at Yabun, the Aboriginal festival that recognizes the indigenous population still living in Australia.

Freshly sunned Sydney-siders tend to spend their daytime celebrations at Sydney's many beautiful beaches.

Freshly sunned Sydney-siders tend to spend their daytime celebrations at Sydney’s many beautiful beaches.

Around noon, thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians marched down City Street, located in a bustling area of town, to protest the celebration of Australia Day on January 26th. Many chants advocated for Australia Day to be changed to a different date and remind that “white Australia has a black history.”

The Australian Aboriginal flag held high above the crowds stands a reminder that the strength of the first peoples of this continent will never be forgotten.

The Australian Aboriginal flag held high above the crowds stands a reminder that the strength of the first peoples of this continent will never be forgotten.

Just blocks away from the march, the Australian flag hangs all over Circular Quay as Australians merrily prepare for fireworks and evening festivities.

Just blocks away from the march, the Australian flag hangs all over Circular Quay as Australians merrily prepare for fireworks and evening festivities.

As the cultural celebrations continue, Yabun features traditional indigenous dances for the crowds to enjoy and learn of different tribes’ history. Meanwhile, visitors of Coogee Beach catch some sun and “soak in the vibes” of Australia Day.

A young lady from the Blue Mountains dances in dedication to the cockatoo.

A young lady from the Blue Mountains dances in dedication to the cockatoo.

"Happy 'Straya Day!" Beach-goers pose for social media posts to show off their Australian pride.

“Happy ‘Straya Day!” Beach-goers pose for social media posts to show off their Australian pride.

Australia truly is a country worth great recognition and celebration. The strength of the Aboriginal nations has held true despite efforts to completely remove them, and ‘Survival Day’ will always be a reminder of their roots. As Australia Day ambiance fades, more and more Australians realize the importance of celebrating the nation that is and the peoples whose rich culture influenced its development along the way.

The world awaits…discover it.

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