Day stirs sense of survival
By RACHEL AFFLICK
OPTIMISM for the future brought a smile to the face of Arakwal woman Yvonne Stewart on Saturday.
As she took in the crowd at Saturday’s Survival Day event, she was excited by what she saw.
Hundreds of people, from all cultures, had gathered at Byron Bay’s Apex Park to dance, sing, talk or just mingle.
Bundjulung people from Ballina also travelled to the event.
The day, January 26, is also known as Australia Day, which celebrates the anniversary of white settlement.
But ‘Australia Day’ was always ‘Invasion Day’ for Yvonne.
It was recognised as a day of mourning for the invasion and dispossession of her people. “We sat, we mourned, we reflected. We had our own separate event,” Yvonne said.
This year, however, it was a different picture. Yvonne said there was no shame and no blame involved.
She said Survival Day was a chance for everyone to come together and recognise white Australia has a black history.
It was also a way of moving forward.
“This is a fantastic day,” she said. “Today we have survived the invasion. We’re still here. We’re still strong. We want to share that with everyone, as a nation.
“The objective for us is to intermingle with the wider community and to show them this is still a very significant day for Aboriginal people.
“We don’t have to have separate events.”
This year was the third Survival Day held in Byron Bay.
And according to its founder, Byron Shire councillor John Lazarus, it was the most optimistic.
“Under the previous federal government a lot of people felt disillusioned with the reconciliation process,” he said.
“I think with the new Government, this will be a new era.
“I’m really hopeful we can move forward with reconciliation.”
Cr Lazarus said three years ago he had pitched the idea as a day everyone could feel comfortable with.
The event had continued to grow, thanks to the support of the community.
He said bringing reconciliation into the ‘white mainstream’ could enrich all cultures.
“The people who want to celebrate can celebrate. The people who want to focus on survival can,” Cr Lazarus said.
“It has really been embraced by the Byron Shire Council.
“There has been a lot of support from the white community, particularly from many members of its business community.”
‘Survival Day’, partially funded by the council, featured family-style entertainment including music, speeches, a sausage sizzle, kids activities and face painting.
The event also marked 70 years since 100 Aboriginal delegates gathered for the Day of Mourning, which laid the foundations for the Indigenous Rights movement.
The 1938 conference in New South Wales was the first organised protest against the treatment of Aboriginal people around Australia.
From this beginning, the concepts of ‘Invasion Day’ and ‘Survival Day’ grew.