Sorry, January 26 was not an invasion!

By Dr KEVIN DONNELLY – Senior fellow at the ACU’

The announcement by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to overturn the decision by the Scott Morrison government to punish local councils for refusing to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 has reignited the debate about the significance of Australia Day.

Indigenous activists condemn the arrival of the First Fleet as an invasion leading to genocide.

ABC broadcaster Stan Grant, who describes himself as a “proud Wiradjuri man”, describes the arrival of Europeans as the nation’s “original sin”. A sin that still exists after hundreds of years and that will continue to stain innocent generations for years to come.

In the Australian national curriculum students are told the convict settlement “was viewed by First Nations Australians as an invasion” leading to “dispossession and the loss of lives through frontier conflict, disease and loss of food sources and medicine”.

While there is no doubt the establishment of the penal colony and its gradual expansion led to Aborigines suffering dislocation, disease and violence at the same time the reality, compared to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is that it’s wrong to describe European settlement as an invasion.

The Admiralty’s orders to Captain Arthur Phillip stated, “You are to endeavour by every possible means to open an Intercourse with the Natives and to conciliate their affections, enjoining all Our Subjects to live in amity and kindness with them”.

The fact Phillip took no reprisal after being speared and that convicts were punished when they ignored Phillip’s orders to treat any Aborigines encountered with respect also proves how wrong it is to describe the penal colony as an invasion.

As noted by Watkin Tench, one of the marines who arrived with the First Fleet, “all ranks of men have tried to effect it (to coexist peacefully with the Aborigines) by every reasonable effort from which success might have been expected I can testify”.

It’s wrong to emphasise what the historian Geoffrey Blainey describes as a black armband view of history where future generations and recent immigrants are held morally responsible for a supposed invasion they had nothing to do with.

While many denounce Australia Day as Sorry Day and argue there is nothing beneficial or worthwhile about January 26, the reality is that was the day Phillip raised the British flag in Sydney Cove proving to the French, who had recently arrived in Botany Bay, this was a British colony.

Unlike the French, who were soon to experience the violence and terror of the 1789 revolution, we were a colony that inherited a political and legal system drawing on the Magna Carta and Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England that embodied essential rights and freedoms.

A colony that also drew on Enlightenment values such as liberty, reason and tolerance that help explain why the British were the first to abolish slavery. Such was the strength of the anti-slavery movement Phillip argued in the new colony “there can be no slavery in a free land, and consequently no slaves”.

Proven by the arrival of the King James Bible and the first church service held on February 3, 1788, by the Reverend Richard Johnson, Australia’s foundation is also deeply imbued with Christianity.

Central to Jesus’ teachings is what St Paul describes as the belief “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Concepts like the inherent dignity of the person, the right to freedom and liberty and a commitment to social justice and serving the common good are biblical in origin. While not always followed, over time such Christian teachings have ensured Western societies like Australia are beacons of freedom in an increasingly hostile world.

One of the mantras employed by Aboriginal activists is that now is the time for truth-telling. The same applies to both sides of the debate. Rather than condemning the arrival of the First Fleet as an invasion leading to genocide, it’s time to tell the truth.

The evidence proves, notwithstanding the eventual violence, dispossession and disease following the colony’s expansion across the Blue Mountains, the original intention was to treat the Aborigines fairly.

It’s also true since January 26 1788 Aborigines have benefited from European settlement proven by the right to vote, to be treated equally before the law and decisions like Mabo guaranteeing land rights.

While representing 3.8 per cent of the population, it’s also true Aborigines receive approximately $30b annually in government grants, subsidies and payments.

It should not be ignored that before European settlement, instead of being the First Nations, there were hundreds of different Aboriginal tribes and violence and warfare existed as it always has among other cultures and throughout history.



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  • Robert Sherwood February 1, 2023  

    In the main I agree with Stan Grant’s philosophy, but I will not join the Stanwagon in a general condemnation of the living for some putative ‘invasion’ in our past.
    My g/gmother was identified as a Wiradguri woman from west of Warren in NSW and I don’t wear that as a badge, or as a “black armband”. I cannot change that or the first landing events; I just get on with being a lucky Australian and watch in wonder at the behavior of today’s aboriginals who waste all the benifit offered by the community at large.

  • Alan Foyle February 1, 2023  

    No matter what we do to say “sorry” or to assist them, they will never be happy. It is all about screwing the “whities” to get the most freebies out of the Australian taxpayer they can. ATSIC comes to mind. Why should I work when I can say I’m from the the Bullshitblahblah tribe, invent a language and culture (dreamtime?) and you have taken over my land. “Always was – Always Will Be” Yeah, right! You need to PAY me for that!

    Goons of wine are not free ya know! How am I to be off my face without subsidised free alcohol, or a litre of high octane petrol to sniff? P.S. I don’t have a car or a drivers licence LOL!.

    Sick to death of the pollies from all sides with their gutless dealings with 3% of the population dictating to the remainder as to what will happen in OUR country. They all bend over and take it up the rear from these radicals. You want a VOICE – stick it up your ass!

    One Nation – One Flag. No Red/Black/Yellow rag for me.
    Stick your Welcome to Country Where the Sun Don’t Shine.
    Never will acknowledge it as long as my Uranus points to the ground.
    Stan Grant – You are a Far Quit!

  • Alan Foyle February 1, 2023  

    “ABC broadcaster Stan Grant, who describes himself as a “proud Wiradjuri man”. PROVE IT! Where did he get the “clan” name from? Dreamtime? It is so obvious this is just a load of bulldust invented over 25 schooners of beer at some pub. What was the area his “mob” occupied? What language do they speak? How does he known he is associated with this “clan”. Just total frogshit!

    Do these people really believe we are so stupid as to swallow this tripe? Put you background up for examination Stan GRANT – you are so full of shite!

  • Greg Ivey February 1, 2023  

    Dr Donnelly is a conservative educator who demonstrates that he lacks the skills and knowledge of an historian or a lawyer – why pay attention to his public opinions on the invasion? However, he knows about the English Bible and the British policy of Slavery. His article tries to white-wash the devastating impacts of colonisation on the indigenous people and then concludes that “Aborigines have benefited from European settlement”. Does any rational person today believe that? Where is the evidence? Cemeteries don’t lie.

  • Dave Williams February 3, 2023  

    Has anyone noticed the proliferation of the ” Smoking Ceremonies” lately. The abos say they are for Welcome To Country ceremonies.

    NOT TRUE. In 1968 I was working in Meekatharra and an old abo fella died. The next day I went to visit his wife and I noticed smoke coming from the house. Thinking it was on fire I asked if she had tried to put it out. She then told me their custom was to smoke the house to release his spirit from the premises. I then asked if this was the only time “smoking” was used and I was told it was the only time this was ever done. I spoke to other full blood abos in the town and they agreed. This “smoking” ceremony stuff has only really gone full ahead since about 1987. On TV about a week ago a smoking ceremony was done to “welcome to Country” however the bloke doing the smoking said it was to ward off evil spirits. It just goes to show these days they don’t even know the true meaning of “Smoking”. These “Smoking”ceremonies being done at all sorts of Öpenings” quite frankly are an insult to my intelligence. These people really do need to get back to basics and learn the true meaning of their cultures, Will it ever happen?, I doubt it.

  • Paul Martino February 5, 2023  

    Here Hear!. Enough of this PC Woke rubbish being forced down our throats by these leftwing loonies to the detriment of our Country and the majority of Australians.

  • Laurens February 5, 2023  

    You don’t know what you don’t know… but you sprout your ignorance for all to read

    The left-wing loonies, as you call them, are people not anchored in the past and will take us forward regardless of the baying of the ignorant right

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