Wednesday, January 26, 2011

AUSTRALIA DAY from a different perspective

Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 to celebrate the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove, Port Jackson. The fleet headed by Captain Arthur Phillip firstly dropped anchor in Botany Bay but he established that this was not the place for a settlement so after sailing up the coast to discover Port Jackson, he returned to sight two ships flying the French flag. One of these ships contained the French Commodore Laperouse, never to return to France. In desperate weather conditions, Captain Phillips returned to claim Australia for England.

Captain Arthur Phillip orders the raising of the English flag in Sydney Cove - January 26, 1788.
Although we celebrated Australia Day in honour of the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, our Indigenous population and sympathisers, call it Invasion Day. I guess it's from your own perspective. I think our original Australians might just have a point.

The below words are not mine - they came from an article on Pastor Doug Nicholls. I mentioned in a previous post that his son and I attended the same school in the 60s.

The following speech was reported on the front page of the Northcote Leader on Wednesday Jan 30th-1957. 'Northcote had provided a very large crowd to take part in the Australia Day celebration arranged by aboriginals and friends on Sunday afternoon at Batman Park. The crowd soundly applauded Pastor Doug Nicholls when he suggested, as his theme, that the bridge between white and aboriginals should be bridged'.
Pastor Doug Nicholls

PASTOR DOUG NICHOLLS said:“Would you take Aboriginals into your home and make both friends and workmates of them? They do it in New Zealand, even if to a limited degree”. Doug Nicholls, footballer, curator, fighter for the race of which he is a full blooded member was on Sunday afternoon, the orator. He had prepared one speech, forgot he was carrying notes, embarked upon a whimsical oration which none of his hearers could have bettered had they been white or black."

“This is a great day, this birthday of yours. We come to share it with you. Someone said to me recently that we should go to the Yarra Bank and organise a day of mourning for what happened 169 years ago. The mourning would be in memory of a great people. Those who were the old Australians. But we are happy to come here today. This place is ours you know. It reminds us that Captain Cook met our ancestors. But it also reminds us practically on this very spot they also met John Batman and signed a famous agreement. I don’t want to embarrass our councillors, but what we are thinking of is that in 1837 Batman made an agreement by which he and his undertook to make a return for a perpetual lease of 5000 acres in the Northcote vicinity."

"Do you remember what we were to get? Each year the rental was to be 100 blankets, 100 knives, 100 tomahawks, 50 pairs of scissors, 50 looking glasses and 50 suits of clothes. Bless me, I could do with a suit, but I don’t know about those looking glasses and tomahawks. Then there was 50 tonnes of flower. I can’t see any flour about. Perhaps Mayor Spain will do something about it next week” (laughter). Mr Nicholls said that since Captain Phillips landed with his cargo from the gaols of England, Australians had made great progress. The nation had become great. The cities were hives of industry and wheat and wool grew in the great open spaces.
“You are a great nation he went on. A great people. You have bridged the gulf between the old and the new, between the gaols and thriving success. But you have not bridged the gulf what Harold Blair calls the Old Australians and those who came in the middle. As I see you here today supporting the only Northcote celebration of Australia Day at a function run by Aborigines. I ask myself why this gulf between the two peoples remain. Is it because you are making it racial discrimination? You may be, you are a great people, but is there any reason why we should not march beside you?"


"Is there any reason why we should be relegated to river-bank shacks instead of being helped to rise above our present ‘degradation’ (applause). Is there any reason why one of us should not go on the council which controls the land which once was ours, or even to Canberra? A voice: Why not? We want chances, opportunities, our children to be treated like your children” the Pastor went on

'You know there is quite a difference between 1914-18, 1939-45 and 1957. Do you remember how they came to us in those terrible years and asked, "Aboriginals can you fight?" and we said, "Try us", and our blood flowed with yours in Gallipoli, Tobruk and New Guinea. But have we been asked anything since? We are different from you only in colour. Are we encouraged?"

"Do you extend to us the hand of friendship? It is these things which on this day of your birthday, we ask you to give to us after all these 169 years." Among those who supported Mr Nicholls were the Mayor, Councillor Mr A Spain, other councillors and there wives; Mr D Clancy, President of the Aboriginals Girls Hostel Committee; the famous Aboriginal singer, Mr HaExert from The Northcote Leader - Jan 30th 1957rold Blair, and the Aboriginal Moomba Choir with Isabel Kuhl and Merv Williams as soloists.

Cr Spain said Northcote owed Doug Nicholls
"The Prime Minister, the other day, claimed that Australia was a land without class distinction. We know how wrong he is. We know not only what happens here, but we have reports about other Australians in Western Australia.
In two wars, in industrial and primary development we have shown that we have courage, initiative, skill and leadership.
I can only join with Doug Nicholls in asking "When we have all these things - is the little matter of doing justice to our relatively few Aboriginals too big a task us?
Surely it would be rubbish to suggest such a thing."(Applause.)
"This afternoon shows that this is a cause which has caught the imagination of the people," Cr. Spain said
"Let us hope this is the beginning of wiping a blot off our splendid record."


  1. Happy Australia Day and thankyou for the informative article. By the way I love your new header photo.

  2. Thank you for your nice comments for Australia Day. I had a great ride on a great day with great friends - did some work in the Arvo and Sue and I had a tradtional roast lamb for dinner.


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