Picture this: you have a home.
It’s your dream home. It doesn’t matter what that might look like to you, it could be sleek, shiny surfaces or ornate fireplaces and lush curtains draping all over the place or a snug little cottage, surrounded by gumtrees. It’s yours. Not only is it yours, but it’s been in your family for a really long time: maybe your great, great, great, great grandparents built it, or owned the land that it sits on, and you grew up knowing it down to your bones. It’s a special place, a place that feels almost like it’s a part of who you are as a person.
It’s six in the evening, and you’re at the sink with your hands emerged in warm, soapy water. You’ve always loved doing the dishes right in this spot: the way the light filters through the tree out the front is dreamy, and it settles you. Suddenly, a group of people from the council are at your door. It’s late for them to be here, in their suits and ties. You wipe your hands and answer. They’ve come to tell you to get out.
‘What?’ you’re in shock. ‘This is my house! This is my home– why on earth would I have to get out?’ They explain to you, gruffly, that there are a whole stack of new people moving into the neighborhood, and that they need homes. They tell you that it’s normal; it’s happening to everyone in the area, that it’s just the way things are. They tell you to that they’ll take care of you far better than you’ve been taking care of yourself. They tell you that they have new ways of doing things.
You kind of liked the way you’d been doing things. You liked the way you’d built your life.
As they stand there talking, more members of the council come in: these ones are scarier, and you can tell they don’t think much of you. You can see them throwing things onto the front yard. They’re walking on your mother’s books, and one of them just broke a beautiful, ornate bowl that your grandma used to serve her salads in. You’ve always loved that bowl.
Some time has passed. Your new house isn’t far away: you live in a block of units with everyone else who surrounded your home before. The units aren’t bad, necessarily: they’re comfortable enough, but they’re all kind of the same as each other. They’re a lot smaller than the house you had before, and the one you spend your nights in really doesn’t feel like home.
Some of the people in the block seem to like the new situation: and that’s fine! A lot of you, though, miss the richness and the color that you lived with before. You miss the sense of belonging.
A whole year has gone by. You can’t believe it’s been that long. You’re checking your letterbox (one in a row of lots and lots that look the same), and as you’re flicking through your mail you see a beautiful envelope, thick and cream colored, with the words ‘YOU’RE INVITED’ embossed on the front of it in luscious, curly script. You open it. Your mouth drops. Your stomach drops. It’s an invitation to a party- a party celebrating the anniversary of the day that your grandma’s beautiful bowl was broken, and that your home was stolen from you.
Would you celebrate? The people who live in your home now are quite lovely- you don’t have anything against them, and your home has changed so much in the past year that you probably wouldn’t want it back anyway. One of them even said sorry for the imposition they’ve caused a couple of months ago- but all that feels like it’s unraveled, holding the invitation. It’s so heavy in your hands.
Would you go? I wouldn’t. I think I would be so proud of the neighborhood, I’d love the people around me and I’d find the strength to carry on, but there is no way I could celebrate the day that my whole life was turned upside down: and quite frankly, I would expect my friends, my family and any human being who’s more decent than they are stubborn, more kind than they are set in their ways, to hear me when I tell them that, and to stand with me.
I stand with our indigenous friends, neighbors, and fellow Australians, I honor their history and hope for their future, and I completely and utterly support CHANGING THE DATE of Australia Day. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land. Thank you so much for having us here: I hope that one day we can work as hard as you have to mend the rift that we have caused.