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January 26 is a day to act, not a day to celebrate

Giovanni Torre -

First Nations self-determination advocacy group Children's Ground says January 26 is "a day to act... not a day to celebrate".

The group said on Thursday it "recognises the enduring pain, loss, suffering and resilience of First Nations people".

Children's Ground, designed and led by First Nations communities, aims to create "a different future for the next generation of children".

The organisation works towards to goal that "every child born today should experience a lifetime of opportunity and grow up strong in their identity and culture, free from injustice and economic poverty".

"If all children can experience this basic right, then whole communities will be happy, healthy and safe places."

This week, Children's Ground noted that since 26 January 1788, "we have been pushed to the brink of annihilation through genocide, assimilation and removal".

"We continue to suffer land theft, stolen children, loss of language and widespread oppression. This is not a day to celebrate. This is a day to act."

2023 NAIDOC Elder of the Year and Chair of Children's Ground, William Tilmouth, said Invasion Day "was an event that traumatised our people".

"I find today there's a whole lot of people that want to do something, be constructive and create change. There is too much anger in the world. We need to work together and show respect to one another," he said.

"No matter how you feel about this date, we've got to get on and do the job."

In the wake of the referendum, it is critical that Australia continues to engage in a discussion of its history, the importance of truth telling, and to provide space for the self-determination of First Nations people.

"Last year we missed a big opportunity with the referendum, but opportunities can come around again in a different way," said Mr Tilmouth.

Children's Ground aims for First Nations people across Australia have self-determination and enjoy social, cultural, political and economic justice; for "our next generation of children know and celebrate their culture and identity, have freedom of choice and expression and can live with opportunity, peace, harmony and wellbeing, and for all Australians to recognise our shared history and celebrate First Nations culture and strength".

The organisation says the key to this mission is "recognising children, families, our Elders and our culture" and "listening to the way we as First Nations people want to lead and then following that path; upholding First Nations law and culture and the central place of land, kinship, responsibilities and knowledge from Apmerengetyele (from the land)".

Mr Tilmouth said whether it is big acts or small acts, "it's how people act towards each other".

"We all have the ability to support each other and work together for the betterment of all of us, white fellas and black fellas," he said.

"Recognise us, respect us and listen to us. It's as simple as that. To continue the narrative of who we are and where we come from, we need to have agency over our communities, land, language and culture.

"On 26 January we have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to understand the truth of our history as a Nation. To learn and grow together so that we can achieve justice, dignity and human rights for all Australians, especially the most disadvantaged and marginalised. When this is achieved we can acknowledge a national day of celebration."

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