Letters

Australia Day

Ed,
It’s a very odd day for me this ‘Australia Day’ thing.
I’m what they refer to as a ‘First Fleeter’, direct descendant of William Tunks the Marine on board the Sirius, the Flag Ship of the First Fleet and Sarah Lyons (an extremely feisty Jewish woman who was a convict on the Second Fleet ship – the Lady Juliana).
There’s always jokes made about us First Fleet folk being Convicts.
Over the last few years I’ve spent many hours researching how the First Fleet came to be. The horrific conditions of the prison ships in England had become an embarrassment to the English Government and a costly exercise in terms of ‘detention’ of so called criminals.
The whole concept of celebrating a day that was in fact an UGLY decision by the English Government to DUMP thousands of its unwanted ‘criminals’ out of sight is confusing.
These criminals were more often than not either extremely poor people or political and religious prisoners. The punishment of being transported for the term of their natural life did many things, but most of all put the English problem a long way out of their governments sight.
What it did to the families of those transported must have been harrowing. What it did to the culture of the individuals transported must have been heartbreaking. They weren’t all Anglo Saxon peoples, they were from all over the UK and the world, of different religions and cultures and suddenly torn from this.
The only analogy that I can come up with for celebrating such a massive series of human rights crimes is that the convicts came to identify with their gaolers – Stockholm Syndrome.
This initial series of human rights crimes led to the massacre of the rightful owners of the land we now know as Australia. Killing babies, women, men … it literally makes me feel ill.
The part that really stumps me about this day is that millions of non-Aboriginal people have spent billions of dollars tracing their own ancestral roots through sites like Ancestry dot com, specifically because they were torn away from their own culture and heritage. AND YET- a vast majority of these same people have the hide to dismiss Aboriginal Australians right to reclaim their cultural and heritage. Hypocrites of the first degree!
Australia Day should be a day of reflection of healing of learning and understanding. It should be a day of working towards supporting the restoration of all our cultural and heritage – but the priority should be that of Aboriginal Peoples Culture and Heritage as unlike the non-Aboriginal people, much of the Aboriginal Culture and Heritage was recorded via oral history passed down from generation to generation. We MUST save this – it is our primary National Treasure.
Ursula Tunks, South Grafton

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