Gathering for Survival Day: Leith Bailey, Candy Matthews, Keiko Sugimura, Alan Cornfield, Linda Cornfield, Dean Wilson, Dina Hogan, Greg White, Rick Russell, Julien Bellanza, Neve Wilson, Lucy Wilson, Kylie Medley, Mika Rees, Tracie Pushman, Emerald Kyaw, Sandra Hill, Trish Wall and Matt Wall. A CROWD of Balingup locals gathered together on Monday January 25 to show their support for members of the Indigenous community on the eve of Survival Day.
People spoke on the night about what Survival Day meant to them, from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives.
Noongar Elder Sandra Hill said having all of her friends and community around her on the day meant the world, because she didn’t feel alone while being confronted by Australia Day on the next day.
“I’ll have a full heart,” she said.
“Normally I’m completely disconnected from the community on that day; it’s like being pushed aside again. It is particularly raw because of what’s gone on this year, the racism against Adam Goodes, the closure of community services around the country. It’s been a horrendous year, and so in your face how divided we are.
“Today has been like a tonic to have community and friends support us, respect us and against all odds, celebrate us surviving. This little gesture shows me they do care, and they do want to support us. Tomorrow is their day as white Australians.
“It gives me hope that one day we will all be standing together and celebrating together.”
Tracie Pushman, a Noongar woman of Balingup, said many people felt uncomfortable celebrating on Australia Day.
“A lot of people are empathetic to the plight of Noongar people,” she said.
“For me Survival Day is having the alternative to spend time together in solidarity with Noongar people, and do it on our terms.”
Trish Wall, a Noongar woman of Perth, said Survival Day for her was about non-Indigenous people having a way of working with Indigenous people in acknowledging their cultural heritage and embracing it.
“It gives some insight into us as Indigenous people, into how we want to walk the walk and talk the talk, while still retaining our culture and belief systems,” she said.
“It also gives a chance for people in the community to see my sister, to talk with her in a way conducive to how she feels. Tomorrow is hard for us; this takes a little speck of pain away and helps us come together and celebrate our culture in a unique way.
“It’s about sharing and talking and embracing each other, with no obstacles. We are not invisible to this community and that’s a very precious thing.
“For my sister to be brave enough to do this, to take away a little bit of that pain from tomorrow, they see her like any other person and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Matt Wall, a non-Indigenous man from Perth, said for him it was a recognition of Indigenous people’s struggles.
“I’m not big on the Australia Day celebration because there’s not a lot to celebrate,” he said.
“I know it means a lot to these guys to be recognised for their heritage and the struggle they’ve been through. Indigenous history in this country hasn’t been recognised from day one; this is from a white person’s perspective, but I see the struggle Indigenous people have fought for, and realistically it’s important for them to have the recognition that they’ve come through everything.”
Rick Russell, a non-Indigenous man from Balingup, said he was a sixth generation Australian descended from Anzacs, with several family members who had fought for Australia.
“I think it hurts several of my close friends to celebrate on this date,” he said.
“I know it offends and distresses a lot of my close friends when we celebrate on the day the country was taken from them, and I think we should be mature enough to have a discussion around this date. We lose nothing, but gain something.”
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