Ken Canning: January 26 is Invasion Day

Early last year, an academic debate over Invasion Day erupted at the University of NSW. Apparently, some well credentialed people are offended that the term “invasion” is used to describe January 26.

I would be quite happy not to have to use that term. Stop and think for a few minutes: that would mean altering history or going back in time and ensuring the invasion of this country, now called Australia, never happened. 

We all know that is impossible, and the sooner they get their grey matter around the obvious, the quicker we can get along the road to some form of consensual respect.

As it is now, I simply cannot respect anybody who denies European colonisation of this country.

I have heard all the arguments about whether it was an invasion or not. Let’s not get too bogged down in some theoretical dream here.

  • Fact: On January 26, 1788, British ships sailed into what is now called Sydney Harbour.
  • Fact: That land and all other traditional lands were taken by force. No lands were ever ceded to the British. 

Any spin can be put on this, but you cannot escape these vital points.  

I know on reading this, the critics will be baying. But think for a few minutes. We, as First Nations peoples, have a right to determine history as well and our views are as valid as any academic apologist. Show some respect and stop trying to dictate the history of the country you now occupy.

Having said that, I would like to invite everyone to attend the Sydney Invasion Day march.

We are meeting at 10am at the Redfern Community Centre and marching to the southern end of Hyde Park.

Last year, up to 6000 people marched down George Street under the banner of Invasion Day, many of them non-Aboriginal.  

I am sure some would have had mixed feelings on the day, but by participating they all learned.  

The march is being organised by FIRE (Fighting In Resistance Equally). FIRE is made up of many First Nations groups and other non-Aboriginal oppressed sections living in the so-called “Lucky Country”. This organisation was behind the successful rally marking International Human Rights Day on December 10 last year. 

We do not shy away from the fact that we are essentially made up of protest groups such as Grandmothers Against Removals, Indigenous Social Justice Association and Fighting in Solidarity Towards Treaties.

This is not to say we are a violent group: far from it. Our protests are always peaceful. We walk strong and proud, and people who attend always come away with a renewed perspective of what has been fraudulently passed off as this nation’s history.

We do need numbers in the streets to have our voices heard. This is imperative.

I have always been of the belief that once you can overturn the colonial mentality consuming our governments — resulting in the continued denial of justice of First Nations peoples and the oppression we all live under — you will, in effect, overturn the same mentality that is keeping 90% of our population prey to the whims of big business-run governments.

On January 26, come and join us, walk with us and learn from us.  

For far too long, knowledge in this country has been confined to the world of academia. We, the First Nations peoples, carry a knowledge as old as time itself. Yes, we are protesting but we are all more than willing to share with those who walk with us.

[Ken Canning is a member of the Socialist Alliance and the Indigenous Social Justice Association.]