One Day should celebrate us all

WHEN Fremantle council scrapped Australia Day celebrations and fireworks in 2017 I was in favour of it and still am. 

After all, it was done out of consideration for our Aboriginal people, as many of them consider January 26 to be Invasion Day, the day foreigners displaced and patronised them, racism started, and children were taken from their parents, just because they were black. 

The Stolen Generation is one of the darkest moments in Australia’s history.

One Day in Fremantle, the council’s alternative to Australia Day, started with a huge John Butler concert on the Esplanade, attended by 20,000 people. 

In 2018 Kate Miller-Heidke, Baker Boy and others were the stars of One Day, and in 2019 Montaigne, Adrian Eagle and Wurramara performed to large crowds. 

The most significant and quite wonderful moments of the One Day events were the smoking ceremonies at Bathers Beach early in the morning.

However, in 2020 One Day in Fremantle suddenly changed from a day of celebrating our city’s cultural diversity into an Aboriginal day at Bathers Beach, that disappointingly only attracted a few hundred people.

The previous two years One Day had to be canceled due to the Covid restrictions, but this year the Clayton’s Australia Day event is back on in Fremantle, and is again only an Aboriginal day.

I believe that is wrong. Reconciliation is about connecting people and embracing our multiculturalism. 

That is how One Day in Fremantle started and should continue.

I am all for Thomas Mayor coming to talk about The Voice and why we should have acknowledgment of our First Nations people in the Australian constitution. 

That is an important part of a day that is about cultural awareness.

Only having Aboriginal cultural activities, Dreamtime stories, stalls, films and yarning with elders is wrong though.

I believe that making One Day in Fremantle into an Aboriginal day is patronising and condescending of Fremantle council, and not helpful to 

the important and necessary reconciliation process. 

It is not right to only celebrate 1.7 per cent of the Fremantle population on a day where we should be celebrating Australia’s diversity – of course with respect, consideration and acknowledgment of our First Nations people.

Fremantle already has the fantastic annual Wardarnji Aboriginal Festival at the Fremantle Arts Centre and also the amazing yearly Revealed showcase of Indigenous art from all over WA, on show in the entire FAC, with a very popular Saturday art market, that sells hundreds of artworks in support of remote communities.

There is a lot of unacceptable racism in Australia, and even more racism against our indigenous people. 

That is very wrong, but making One Day in Fremantle an exclusive celebration of Aboriginal culture will undermine what the event originally set out to address – the lack of inclusivity.

One Day should be about connecting, about all of us learning from all of us. 

It should be about how we connect on a personal level, how we talk to people we have never met, experience different cultures, learn to accept, tolerate, and respect and love those who are different.

I have a real genuine love for Aboriginal people and their culture. 

I have great respect for their resilience after settlers/invaders rejected their culture and language and forced them off their land, but One Day in Fremantle needs to be a whole lot more than just engaging with our Indigenous history and culture. 

It needs to be a respectful truth-telling conversation between all of us, a celebration of Freo’s multiculturalism.

The One Day in Fremantle is at Walyalup Koort this year, starting with a smoking ceremony and welcome to country at 8am. I’ll see you there.

Roel Loopers

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