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OPINION: Why I am Not Celebrating Jan 26th

Melbourne lawyer Harita Sridhar is refusing to take the public holiday this year to do what her parents taught her to do best – respect your Elders.

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January 26 is fast approaching. Life feels like a whirlwind throughout December as you gear up for the wind-down, book your flights (last minute) to visit family, eat yourself silly, and attend a few summer shaadis. Next thing you know, the New Year starts. It’s back to work, then fast forward a few blurry weeks while you’ve kept accidentally writing ‘2023’ on documents, and it’s time for the first public holiday of the year.

This year, however, I’m doing something different – I’m refusing to take the public holiday.

Now, I can already hear some of you muttering as you read this, “What an idiot, who refuses to take a free day off??” – but don’t worry, I will get it back as a day in lieu another time.

As long as I’ve been old enough to string a sentence together, I have had some modicum of political awareness (it’s amazing how much cleverer children are than we think), and I have never celebrated so-called ‘Australia Day’. I don’t know… just the idea of having a party to celebrate the day a colonial force invaded a continent, pretended no one lived here, planted their flag, and began the long (and ongoing) process of systematically erasing the people that “didn’t live here”, never really sat well with me. Call me overly sensitive, I guess.

 

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So, while a good chunk of Australia is relaxing by a pool, having some version of grilled meat, or simply enjoying a day off with family and friends, I’ll be at my desk in a mostly empty office in the city, working. Thankfully, I work in an organisation that is receptive to staff protesting the public holiday by refusing to observe it (but mercifully allowing us to take a different day off instead – I’m definitely not altruistic enough to completely give up a day off, no matter how horrid the excuse).

I will, however, be leaving my desk at 10 am to go to the Invasion Day rally in Naarm on Wurundjeri Country (some people know it as Melbourne), held across all major capital cities, to add my voice and my feet to the growing number of Australians calling on our government to change the date. I moved to Naarm mid-last year from Garramilla (Darwin), on Larrakia Country, where I’d been living and working for the last five years. In the Top End, it’s near impossible not to feel connected to 60,000-odd years of rich Aboriginal heritage (which makes the mere 30 years that January 26 has been a national public holiday feel piddly in comparison). In Melbourne, I have been feeling lost, unsure of where I belong and how I fit into my new community. I will be turning to the rally to once again be guided by the long lineage of staunch First Nations activism in this country. I will be doing what my wonderful parents taught me to do best – respect my Elders – except this time, I’m following the strong, determined First Nations Elders of this continent in their calls to reject January 26 as a day of celebration (and change the date).

Now to head to Woolies to pick up some supplies for snacks after the rally. Maybe I’ll stop off at Aldi and Kmart on the way home too, just to really p*ss off Peter Dutton.

*Woolworths, Aldi, Kmart and Big W have elected not to stock any ‘Australia Day’ merchandise this year. Coles, on the other hand, is still stocking said merchandise. Thankfully my parents raised a Woolies girl.

READ ALSO: Harita Sridhar: Why I’m voting Yes

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