Marlee Silva - respect ALWAYS - Batyr


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Marlee Silva – respect ALWAYS

January 24, 2021


At batyr we are all about sharing stories and how we can grow and learn from the voices of young people. We know that although we all love this country it can be a very difficult day for many in our community. We think we can learn most by listening to others and so today we want to amplify the voice of Marlee Silva and share her perspective about this day in Australian history, how she is looking after herself and how she is supporting her community at this time.

Yaama, I’m author, podcast host and proud Gamilaroi and Dunghutti woman Marlee Silva and I wanted to pop in and yarn with the Batyr community about a day on the calendar that ignites what is probably the most heated debate in Australia every single year… 

January 26th.

‘Australia Day’ to some and ‘Invasion’ or ‘Survival’ Day to others – like me. But no matter what you call it, it is undeniable that for most Australians, this is a day that ignites deep emotions, conflict, passion, anger and, in some cases, deep trauma. 

When I remember the Jan 26th’s of my upbringing, they were always this great contrast of reflection and mourning through rallies and protests followed by a celebration of culture through music and festivals to mark our survival in spite of the hardships we’ve faced since the point of invasion. But as I got older, as kids at school started to question why I didn’t have temporary Aussie flag tattoos – why I didn’t call it Australia Day – the questions and opposition to my families long-held beliefs around the day and what it meant, were suddenly and relentlessly questioned.

These ‘debates’ around changing the date or abolishing it altogether and all the conversations that come around each year, are straight-up exhausting – and in many ways, have started to feel like a tape stuck on loop as I’ve gotten older, but 2021 has brought me a new sense of hope. There feels like there’s a new group of people, impassioned by the Black Lives Matter movement and hungry to see change. And while I’m not naive to the hard work that still remains, the more voices we have walking with us means more chance of reaching the changes we want to see.

So I wanted to put together some points for the batyr community for each of you allies, on how to spend the day with respect and support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community – but please remember this is just a starting point and I’m merely one blackfulla sharing my own personal perspective, so keep reading and learning from as many voices as possible and keep learning all 364 days of the year…


While we wait for those in power to catch up and make a change to one of the most heated and conflicting dates of the year, here’s some ways* you can spend this January 26th not celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trauma and oppression, but rather honouring their survival and resilience, reflecting on our nations true history and supporting their voices to be heard:

*NOTE: This is a launching pad from one Aboriginal perspective that doesn’t speak for all! Make sure you use it to go on and absorb many more varied voices from within the community, and continuously learn and grow.

  1. Learn the True History
  • January 26th marks the date Captain Arthur Phillip and the first fleet sailed into Sydney Cove and illegally occupied Aboriginal land. This day cannot be separated from the moment in Aboriginal peoples 60 thousand-year history, where our peace and prosperity was disrupted and thrust into two centuries of violence, displacement, oppression and trauma. 
  • ‘Australia Day’ as we know it didn’t come to be until 1994, before that, the national day of celebration had changed dates multiple times and actually beginning as a means of raising funds for the WWI effort, unrelated to a celebration of British colonialism.  
  • On the other hand, Aboriginal people’s history protesting on the 26th of January, a date known as ‘The Day of Mourning’, has a much longer history, with demonstrations dating back to the 1930s.

2. Show Up 

In any other non-COVID year, one of the many rallies and protests held in every major capital city would be an absolute must. 

But for obvious reasons, this might not be possible for everyone in 2021, so if you can’t make it to a rally in a COVID safe way consider showing up by… 

  • Sharing Black Voices and perspectives across your socials,
  • Spending the day listening to Aboriginal perspectives through the many virtual/televised events and conversations,
  • Share and discuss what you’re learning with those around you,
  • Support grass-roots Aboriginal organisations, businesses and artists with any amount you can, and
  • Consider going to work and not treating the day like a holiday, this can be an act of protest too, emphasising it as #NOTADATETOCELEBRATE

3. Walk with kindness, thoughtfulness and respect ALWAYS

  • Through all of this, it is vital to remember how emotionally taxing and re-traumatising the day can be for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Please respect their boundaries and don’t expect them to be your unlimited source of information – Google often has the answer too.
  • Use this day as an opportunity to connect with the country you live on – everywhere you walk across so-called Australia is Aboriginal land. Consider learning more of the local stories, people and history of where you live, spend time in nature and show the country love by doing a clean-up of your local beach or taking a bushwalk. 
    • Most importantly, we need power in numbers and space to be heard every single day of the year. Let January 26th be a planning moment for you too and ask yourself these questions: where can I include blak voices, business and perspectives in my everyday life? What other dates will I be ‘showing up’ for? How can I use my time and skills to fight for productive change every day? Will I commit to always call out racism? Will I vote in a way that supports Indigenous people? Will I constantly pursue further learning and always stay listening?

It’s only when all of us are in for this journey for the long run, that we’ll pave that brighter future for us all.