Approaching 26 January respectfully: protocols and suggestions

26 January is an opportunity to promote truth-telling, understanding, respect, healing and reconciliation.

As the peak body for advancing reconciliation in NSW, Reconciliation NSW promotes respectful, just and equitable communities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and all people in NSW.

We encourage local government, organisations and community groups to approach 26 January respectfully.  This includes recognising the honoured place and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our nation’s history, being sensitive to the feelings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may see the day as one of mourning, and seeking opportunities to celebrate the survival, strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures.

We also encourage the NSW community to engage respectfully in conversations around changing the date and the commemoration of Australia Day.

Here are some simple ways to mark 26 January respectfully and acknowledge local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities:   

• Consult with local Lands Councils, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and community members and inform yourself of their views on the date to help you develop a respectful and informed approach

• Invite Elders to play special roles in any Australia Day events you are organising, including through ‘Welcome to Country’. Be open and receptive to hearing their stories and reflections on what the day means to them and understand and respect their feelings if they do not wish to take part

• Encourage all guest speakers to acknowledge what this day is. It should not be left solely to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to acknowledge the realities of our histories and what this date means * Acknowledge local Aboriginal Nations, Elders and communities in the event and promotional material

• Incorporate ways of acknowledging the injustices that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander have experienced

• One way of recognising the loss, hurt and suffering that 26 January embodies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is to fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at half mast

• Consider holding a minute of silence at the start of the formal proceedings to reflect on these injustices

• Hold celebratory events on an alternative date(s).

Resources and ideas around 26 January in NSW:

Attend one of the ‘Survival Day’ or ‘Invasion Day’ events, such as

Yabun’ or ‘Cooee’ Festivals

The Vigil at Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney

Wugulora Morning Ceremony – Barangaroo, Sydney

Yabun Festival – Spirit of Survival, Victoria Park Camperdown, Sydney

Always, Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney

Tallawoladah Stage, Campbells Cove The Rocks

Cooee Festival, Regatta Park Emu Plains, Western Sydney

Celebration of the Survival of Indigenous Cultures – Byron Bay

Saltwater Freshwater Festival – Coffs Harbour

Invasion Day Rally, Hyde Park Sydney

• Follow us on social media (FacebookTwitter, Instagram) or sign up as a member for resources and information about NSW reconciliation efforts;

• Be curious and educate yourself – reading more about the history of Australia during colonial times, such as during the frontier wars, or about the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can enhance our understanding. It is easy to connect with the history of the place in which you live and the connection to traditional lands that continues today. The information is there, and in most cases, it’s a mere click away;

• Share your new knowledge and have a respectful conversation with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours about what you’ve learned and the different perspectives

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