The Sydney Opera House was lit up with Indigenous art for the first time on January 26, Australia Day.
- The design was made by Frances Belle-Parker, a Yaegl woman from Maclean on the Clarence River.
- Belle-Parker’s artwork aims to represent the oldest living culture in the world.
- In recent years, there has been a strong push to change the January 26 celebrations.
- This year, the Aboriginal flag was raised alongside the Australian flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Indigenous Australians have been protesting the Australia Day celebrations.
On January 26, 1788, the British fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour to start a penal colony. Despite encountering settlements, the British fleet invaded Australia as they stole land and murdered people. Thus, it is not surprising that in recent years, more and more Indigenous Australians are protesting the celebration of this day. Speaking to Reuters, artist and Darug woman Leanne Watson shared: “This is the day that started all of our people being murdered, our children being stolen, our land being stolen and for people to celebrate it, it’s pretty disgusting.” In addition to this, Indigenous woman Rita Wright also shared her thoughts, explaining that the national celebration “reinforces a legacy of mistreatment of Indigenous people”.
Amid calls to recognize its Indigenous people, Australia has changed its national anthem.
Last year, the New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian claimed that the current wording of the national anthem ignores the country’s “proud First Nations culture”. This is because the anthem refers to the country as being “young and free” when in reality, the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dates back tens of thousands of years, The Guardian reported. As of January 1, the national anthem has been changed from “For we are young and free” to “For we are one and free”. The change has been made to recognize the nation’s Indigenous people and to foster a “spirit of unity”.
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Artist Frances Belle-Parker released the following statement on Instagram:
The colours are inspired by the vast array of colours present in the Australian landscape and coastline. The brown linear design symbolises a mapping of country/coastline.
The circle markings depict the 250+ Aboriginal Language groups present in Australia and the linear marks represent the 200 nationalities that call Australia home.
By creating this work, it gave myself the opportunity to help tell a story that not only represents who we are as a nation but also to give people a wider understanding of Aboriginal Culture and how valuable it really is to our identity as a nation.
Our sense of belonging to the land is something that is intrinsically embedded into our being, and as First Nations people we are responsible for sharing the truth of our history.
This year, the Aboriginal flag was also raised alongside the Australian flag on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.