Why you should boycott Australia Day

 

ausday

The National Australia Day Council describes Australia Day as “a day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation,” and a “day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the generations to come”.

But for many January 26 is no date to celebrate, and to fully understand why, we must recognise the price of this “great nation’s” achievements over the past 229 years.

The 26th of January 2017 will mark 229 years since the British invaded what is now known as Australia. It was on this date in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack for the first time in Sydney Cove, symbolising British occupation.

When Australia was invaded, British colonisers declared this continent terra nullius: “nobody’s land”; a law which describes territory that has never been subject to the sovereignty of any state. Terra Nullius was granted despite the land already being occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations for over 60, 000 years.

Despite acts of resistance, Australia was brutally colonised as British settlers stole Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land and enacted massacres through state policy.

The Frontier Wars spanned the first 140 years of colonisation. When the invasion commenced, there were approximately 750,000 people living in 350 distinct nations on the Australian landmass. By 1900, only 93,200 Indigenous people survived. At least twenty thousand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were killed or murdered in untold battles and massacres from Hobart to the Kimberley. Approximately two and half thousand invaders were killed as Aboriginal people resisted extermination.

Throughout the twentieth century, the Australian state continued to dehumanise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and commit acts of genocide under new laws. A policy called ‘Smooth the Dying Pillow’ allowed indiscriminate killings well into the 1930’s under the assumption that what was left of the Aboriginal population would die out. [1]

In 1901 the Australian state introduced ‘the White Australia policy’, making Anglocentric whiteness the ultimate marker of citizenship. This meant Indigenous Australians could not vote, own property, receive wages for work, travel, or receive legal representation [2]. Prior to the 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were viewed as ‘sub-human’ and weren’t counted as citizens for the census, but rather were categorised as part of the national flora and fauna.

Until 1970 Aboriginal workers were for all intents and purposes enslaved. They sold their labour power to white men but were denied access to their wages which were often stolen by the state [3].

To those who think colonisation and structural racism are a thing of the past, or that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to ‘get over it’, take a look at recent statistics:

Despite a formal apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the Australian state continues to dehumanise Aboriginal peoples through institutionalised racism and state violence. 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are taken from their families every month, making the number of removals higher now than during the Stolen Generations period. 48% of juveniles in detention are Aboriginal, and like Dylan Voller, many experience physical abuse and trauma.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are massively over represented in Australia’s criminal justice system. Though only representing 3% of the total population, more than 28% of Australia’s prison population are Aboriginal. In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners make up 86% of the prison population.

Between 2000 and 2007 there were 701 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in police custody. The recent release of CCTV footage at the time of Ms Dhu’s death highlight the disregard for her welfare and right to medical treatment.

This year the continued forced closures of Aboriginal communities is creating higher rates of homelessness and poverty for those affected. The removals also sever an intrinsic connection to country known to be important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Day of Mourning, Invasion Day, Survival Day

In 1938, on the 150th Australia Day celebrations, the first ‘Day of Mourning Protest’ was held. Activists marched silently through the streets and held a conference for equal rights and citizenship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ‘Australia Day’ has since been rejected and renamed by many as either ‘Invasion Day’ which mourns the invasion of British colonisers, or ‘Survival Day’ which recognises the continued survival of First Nations people.

How does this position you?

If you are a non-Indigenous person living in Australia, regardless of your family history or the colour of your skin, you directly benefit from the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Any privileges you enjoy living in this country come at the expense of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“To different degrees every colonizer is privileged, at least comparatively so, ultimately to the detriment of the colonized…this can be read by the relation of each group’s concrete economic and psychological position within the colonial society.” [4]

Celebrating Australia Day, a day which rejoices in the European invasion, is only appealing to those who do not know, or those who do not care, about Australia’s black history. It is absurd and insensitive to hold a day of patriotic celebration on a day that marks the beginning of the genocide and dispossession of the owners of this land.

Having a choice to celebrate Australia Day is a marker of settler privilege. As a non-Indigenous person living on stolen land, I acknowledge my privilege and choose to reject this day. I am not proud and I will not celebrate.

The National Australia Day Council recognises this day as a day to recommit to making Australia better for generations to come. Celebrating this day however, no matter the pretense, eradicates history and identity.

The recent lamb advert shows a fictitious Australia that is founded on both multiculturalism and nationalism, but pointedly leaves out the brutal massacres of Indigenous peoples and the dispossession of land and culture. Many Australians see this ad as a step towards inclusivity, but it is just another platform for the whitewashing of Australian history.

Celebrating more ‘inclusively’ on the day by not calling your event an ‘Australia Day Party’ or making a quick acknowledgement of country is not enough. Though these gestures recognise the extreme inappropriateness of holding a celebration on this day, they do little to raise the issues of continued oppression of Indigenous Australians or call for treaty.

I ask you to join me in completely boycotting this day. Instead, show solidarity and stand alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and demand justice.

What can you do?

As a non-Indigenous ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, I propose the following strategies to show your solidarity:

Educate yourself and other non-Indigenous people. Learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, the colonisation of Australia, the Frontier Wars, and the ongoing struggle for self-determination.

Explain to your friends and family why you won’t be celebrating Australia Day this year and ask them to join you. Lessen the burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do this educating.

When possible, listen to and respect the stories and opinions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. If you have questions, ask them, but recognise that you are not entitled to this education. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may not want to do this labour. It is not their responsibility to educate you.

Don’t interrupt or whitesplain racism. If you get called out for problematic behaviour or language don’t get defensive, listen. Acknowledge what happened and apologise, if needed, for any harm caused. Move forward and use this experience to help others learn too.

Attend a Survival or Invasion Day event in solidarity. Respect that the terms of the event are at the discretion of the organisers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in attendance.

 

ACT

Invasion Day Callout – 9am @ Aboriginal Embassy

http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/invasion-day-callout-canberra-26-january-2017

 

Victoria

Invasion Day march – 11.00am @ Parliament Steps

https://www.facebook.com/events/215071755620856/

Share The Spirit Festival 2017 – 11am @ Treasury Gardens

https://www.facebook.com/events/150077532149401/

Belgrave Survival Day “Learn Local Culture – 12pm Borthwick Park

https://www.facebook.com/events/553168944882354/

 

New South Wales

Invasion Day Protest: Change the Date!!! – 9.30am @ Ballina

https://www.facebook.com/events/235105183604169/

Yabun – 10am @ Victoria Park

https://yabun.org.au/

Invasion Day rally – 11am @ The Block, Redfern

https://www.facebook.com/events/236690090088950/

 

Queensland

Survival Day Walk – 7.30am @ Mabo Monument Victoria Bridge

https://www.facebook.com/events/353730851676384/

Invasion Day March – 10am @ Parliament House

https://www.facebook.com/events/1234064616670638/

Survival Day Townsville 2017 – 11am @ Perfume Gardens

https://www.facebook.com/events/869855686479156/

 

South Australia

Survival Day 2017 – 11am @ Semaphore Foreshore

http://www.eventfinda.com.au/2017/survival-day-2017/adelaide/semaphore

Invasion Day Resistance & Mourning Shave (Kaurna Country) – 6pm @ Elder Park

https://www.facebook.com/events/373858919632754/

 

Western Australia

Invasion Day Rally – 1pm @ Perth

https://www.facebook.com/events/703178789841962/

 

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land that we organise on, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations, and pay our respects to elders both past and present, and also extend that respect to any Aboriginal people reading this article. We also acknowledge that this land was stolen and that sovereignty was never ceded.

 

Citations:

[1] Foley, G. (1999). Whiteness and Blackness in the struggle for self-determination

[2] Moreton-Robinson, A. (2004). Whiteness, epistemology & Indigenous representation. In Morton-Robinson, A. (Ed.). Whitening Race: Essays in social and cultural criticism.

[3] Korf, J. (2016). Stolen Wages. <www.CreativeSpirits.info>

[4] (Memmi, A. (1965). The colonizer and the colonized. p77, 79

Living in a Monopoly

In 1903 Lizzie Magie patented the ‘Landlords Game’ – originally intended as an anti-capitalist critique of monopolistic corporate greed. “It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences,” Magie wrote in a political magazine. “It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem[s] to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.”

The game was popular among left-wing progressives and at university campuses, until some thirty years later when Charles Darrow and his wife played it a dinner party. At the time the game wasn’t often bought in a box; rather, it was copied and shared between friends, known as ‘the monopoly game’. Darrow was taken with the game and asked his host to make him a set, along with a copy of the more advanced rules. In 1935, he copied and sold the game, now known as Monopoly, to Parker Brothers along with the myth of its creation.

Lizzy Magie, inventor of the Landlord’s Game, which we now know as Monopoly, in 1936. Photograph: Anspach Archives
Lizzy Magie, inventor of the Landlord’s Game, which we now know as Monopoly, in 1936. Photograph: Anspach Archives

The object is to become the wealthiest player through buying, renting and selling of a single commodity – property. The game of Monopoly is one of accumulation and power that enables each player the chance to compete. Magie invented the game to reveal the current economic system and the greed of those monopolising it; though it was over a hundred years ago and many alterations have been made, parallels between playing a game of Monopoly and life under capitalism still exist today.

When you begin a game of Monopoly players are given equal odds for success: you each receive $1500, the board is open, and everyone has the potential to expand an empire. You go around the board like this for a while, buying properties, building houses and hotels, and just having a good ol’ time accumulating wealth. Until all of a sudden the game gets really serious. You land on Park Lane, it has a red hotel perched upon it and you realise you’re fucked. You count out your paper money, mortgage half your properties and pay the astronomical fee for landing on this spot, but you know it’s all over. There’s a sickening feeling of anger in your gut as you paste a smile on your face and say, “It’s just a game!” But everyone knows what happens next. The leading player gets wealthier and wealthier, accumulating properties as the others are forced to retire – all the while remembering why they hate Monopoly.

The tendency towards monopoly is deeply rooted in the nature of the capitalist economic system, and unlike the game of Monopoly we don’t all start on an equal footing. Capitalism is characterised by gross inequalities in power, wealth and access to resources, and in our society these inequalities are only getting worse. The game of monopoly is well afoot in the Australian housing market, and those of us who weren’t born lucky enough to inherit the metaphorical $1500 are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain secure access to housing.

In 1982, the ABS Survey of Income and Housing revealed that 168,000 or 10% of home buyers spent more than 30% of their gross household income on housing costs. Nearly 30 years later in 2011 these numbers had soared to 640,000, equivalent to 21% of all home buyers. The trend in housing cost burdens reflect rising real house prices; property market booms escalate real house prices to higher levels than they peaked in the previous boom. But with each peak in house prices, household incomes fall continuously behind. According to the same ABS data source, households in 1990 on average valued their homes at four times their average household income, by 2011 this multiple had climbed to nearly six times average household income.

The problem is not one of a shortage of housing, but an inefficient and unequal distribution of the stock housing. There are an estimated 84,000 vacant residential properties in Melbourne, the majority owned by property investors and speculators. At the same time, the public housing waiting list has blown out to ten years as 34,000 people wait for a place to live. This is both obscene, and the logical consequence of an economic system in which housing is not a human right, but rather a commodity to be bought, sold and speculated on for private profit.

The Australian government has done everything it can to support the rampant cycle of property speculation which is driving housing inaffordability across Australia. The combination of “negative gearing” and a concessionary rates of capital gains tax on residential real estate have amounted to a massive transfer of capital to those wealthiest enough to engage in property speculation. Negative gearing means that individuals with high incomes can lower their income tax liabilities by borrowing to buy investment properties. When these speculators cash out, they avoid tax again, thanks to the Capital Gains Tax concessions. The result is that $11.7 billion dollars a year that might have been collected in tax revenue is instead funneled into the pockets of the wealthiest, and this occurs in a process that drives up property prices and rents, and progressively locks large sections of the working class out of the housing market.

Unfortunately for us, capitalism is an adaptable system, capable of evolving and transforming over time. Since Magie invented the ‘Landlords Game’ in 1903 we have seen a major merger movement for industry, greater concentration of capital, advanced selling power through advertising, and a mass expansion for the market through globalization and imperialism. Just like the outcome of the game, the monopolisation of capital results in the most powerful minorities dividing all the profits whilst the greater part of humanity suffers from ever increasing poverty. The standard of living for the wealthy is based on the extreme oppression of the working class.

So whilst there are clear parallels between a game of Monopoly and the conditions of life in a capitalist society, it is also clear that the conditions of our lives are unequal and the outcomes far worse for most. You don’t start on ‘GO’ at the same time as everyone else, you’re certainly not given the same amount of wealth to begin with, all of the properties, utilities and businesses are already owned, and it seems like your dice only roll ones and twos. It’s also really hard to find free parking. The truth is most of us go around the board year in and year out trying to pass ‘GO’ for our measly wage, hoping we can scrape together enough money to pay our rent and survive. If you can’t pay your rent you don’t get to stop playing, you have to keep rolling your shitty dice, trying to make it back to ‘GO’ or dying in the process. Meanwhile the minority who monopolise the board don’t ever really begin the game, certain players just pass their piece on, accompanied by their every-growing pile of notes, properties, and little red hotels.