sometimes i like to imagine a different past for this country, australia. what happens is that the boats arrive from britain, people come off the ships, people come out from the land to see what's happening, and then a gradual friendship begins. whenever i have been at an event where welcome to country happens, whenever i have heard from an indigenous elder, the message has been the same - you are welcome here, respect the land and everything on it and in it. it has not been a message of "fuck off we're full", which it could be.
this is not my imagination, this is my real experience as a white australian. if i try to learn some noongar words and place names and use them, the indigenous people i've met have said it's a good thing, and worth trying, and not to worry too much about pronunciation but that trying to learn the names and the stories is a good thing. it's a tiny bit of my imagination coming true. i would have been weird and racist probably if i'd been alive in 1788, but there were surely some people who were 'awake' to the fact they were just taking over a place, and could imagine a different possibility where something good and worth celebrating 250 years down the track could happen instead.
well, in my imagination the first people teach the boat people how to care for the land. this process would take years, generations, but there are no distractions like television or BCF yet. in fact, BCF won't ever happen. the first people share their knowledge and way of interacting with the land, spirits, animate and 'inanimate' beings, and the british people are amazed. they learn one another's languages. the british people gradually show the first peoples their cultural artefacts also - biology, literature, varied musical instruments. the first people are intrigued. their are misunderstandings, miscommunications. there is justice where people contravene the laws of the ancient land, and gradually, there are a few integrations with the british law way, but not many because the european concepts of property and land ownership are left to the wayside as they are recognised as less helpful to the flourishing of this combined way of being than the original understandings of the land and law.
so on january 26th there's a great celebration. everyone tells the stories of the first meetings. they tell the funny stories of the euros trying to learn how to catch and cook and eat the native foods, the stories of first assumptions of the euros being ghosts and spirits, the funny and heartwarming stories of first true loves and marriages outside tribes, and of integrating with the pale people and how skin and totem customs were widened to accommodate the new arrivals.
all the plants and animals and sacred places are honoured on that day, like every day. certain ancient creation stories are retold. it's not the biggest celebration of the year, but it's one that has its non-ancient rituals gradually evolving and includes feasting and dancing, feasting across european and indigenous styles and incorporating the styles of the boat people who came after, asian, african, everyone else.
there are still shit things that happen on that day, january 26th. parents get annoyed at children, brothers and sisters fight, someone burns the lamb, someone is jealous of someone else for sitting next to the person they have their heart set on, but that's about it. no-one who's a guardian of ancient customs is in jail on a different nation's land away from their kin. no species are gone from land clearing - although some might be perishing from climate change. no rivers or streams have plastics or pesticides in them. everyone still has their language and their unbroken hair belts with various hairs of generations woven in. everyone has books around too, though they're different kinds of books. all the frogs are flourishing.
good things happen in world history, but it wasn't a good thing on january 26th on this continent. it could have been, but it wasn't and isn't and hasn't been made right yet, and so, on noongar boodjar, i'm not going to celebrate.