Legacy of Unity


 “Australian Natives' Association Day”, “Foundation Day”, “Anniversary Day”, ”Invasion Day”, “Survival Day” or better well known as “Australia Day” is a day that has many meanings,  and conjures a myriad of feelings  in this nation every year on the 26th January.

When I first arrived in this country I celebrated “Australia Day”, as yet another ignorant Australian revelling in the wealth and prosperity of this great nation, little did I know, or care about, the history of this day. Why would I care? I had no knowledge of this lands history, but over the next few years, as I began to understand the depth of this nation’s heritage and the enormity of the past.

With knowledge comes responsibility. I asked myself a question, “Now that I am living in this country and call it home am I responsible for the past?” This was a very difficult question that I deliberated over for some time. Finally I came to an answer:

    “If I do not do something to support the future of this country everyday, I am responsible for the past!”

So in writing this, I drew on a number of resources, one case study in particular caught my attention. It is titled “Draw me an Island”

The facilitator of this yarning circle asked students to draw their island as they see it, with all its beauty. They also had to include their own culturally significant site and Elders/Leaders. The students produced these amazing drawings of the land, trees, watering holes, rocks, sacred/significant sites and their leaders/Elders. The facilitator then arranged them close to her and asked the students to tell her about their drawings, as this was happening she placed her foot on the corner of one of the drawings and began to move it slightly away from the others. The students noticed this happening and began protesting about it. Some thought it was by accident at first but then realised this was not the case, the facilitator began to elaborate on the colonisation marking with black pen on the drawings to resemble roads and factories, she then cut out small pieces of the drawings removing  the Elders and children from their islands. The students reflected on their experience and discussed feelings of emotional exhaustion (Sheehan 2012, p133).

When reflecting on my own culture, I realised the New Zealand indigenous Maori people went through a similar experience over land rights. My home town province was the site of two brutal conflicts. The first was a dispute over a 240 hectare block, this is just over the size of New Farm at 200 hectares.

“The catalyst for the First Taranaki War was the disputed sale to the Crown of a 240 hectare block of land at Waitara, despite a veto by the paramount chief of Te Āti Awa tribe, Wiremu Kingi, and a "solemn contract" by local Māori not to sell. Governor Browne accepted the purchase with full knowledge of the circumstances and tried to occupy the land, anticipating it would lead to armed conflict, and a demonstration of the substantive sovereignty the British believed they had gained in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Hostilities began on 17 March 1860. The war was fought by more than 3,500 imperial troops brought in from Australia, as well as volunteer soldiers and militia, against Māori forces that fluctuated between a few hundred and about 1,500” (King 2003, p. 214).

 The second conflict in 1863 which lasted for three years in which thousands of hectares were confiscated and many villages and lives decimated.

“Since 2001, the New Zealand Government has negotiated settlements with four of the eight Taranaki tribes, paying more than $101 million in compensation for the lands, and apologising for the actions of the government of that day” (New Zealand Ministry of Justice fact sheet, 2007).


Part of this process for Australian Indigenous people was the recommendations and actions taken from the Commonwealth Coming Home report, in particular, an annual event that is held on 26 May, since 1998 - National Sorry Day. This day was inaugurated to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country's indigenous population (Coming Home Report, 1997).

The next significant step forward for this nation’s unity was on February 13th, 2008, when the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, finally apologised on behalf of the federal government to the Stolen Generations and said 'sorry'

This journey of conciliation has made great steps forward but is by no means complete. So each and every Australia Day and National Sorry Day it is a good time for us to reflect on our attitudes and actions towards the legacy that we are now contributing to and make it a legacy of unity as one nation and one land.

Further Information

If you are interested in discussing the project further and/or Footprints involvement, please feel free to contact Paul Sears; Community Care and Disability Services Coordinator on 3252 3488 or pauls@footprintsinc.org.au 



Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997 “Coming Home: National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families.” Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 1042. Commonwealth of Australia

Michael King (2003).The Penguin History of New Zealand.” Penguin Books. New Zealand

New Zealand Ministry of Justice fact sheet, 2007


Sheehan, Norman 2012 “Stolen Generations Education: Aboriginal Cultural Strengths and Social and Emotional Wellbeing” Department of Health and Ageing, Brisbane.

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