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Day of Mourning (Australia)

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Proclamation of the Day of Mourning.
Proclamation of the Day of Mourning.

The Day of Mourning was a protest held by Aboriginal Australians on 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, which marked the beginning of the colonisation of Australia. It was declared to be a protest of 150 years of callous treatment and the seizure of land and purposefully coincided with Australia Day celebrations. Day of Mourning protests have been held on Australia Day ever since 1938, though protests sharing its aims on this day are more commonly held under the names Invasion Day or Survival Day.

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Aboriginal Australians

Aboriginal Australians

Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Australian mainland and many of its islands, such as Tasmania, Fraser Island, Hinchinbrook Island, the Tiwi Islands, and Groote Eylandt, but excluding the Torres Strait Islands. The term Indigenous Australians refers to Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders collectively. It is generally used when both groups are included in the topic being addressed. Torres Strait Islanders are ethnically and culturally distinct, despite extensive cultural exchange with some of the Aboriginal groups. The Torres Strait Islands are mostly part of Queensland but have a separate governmental status.

First Fleet

First Fleet

The First Fleet was a fleet of 11 ships that brought the first European and African settlers to Australia. It was made up of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships and six convict transports. On 13 May 1787 the fleet under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, with over 1400 people, left from Portsmouth, England and took a journey of over 24,000 kilometres (15,000 mi) and over 250 days to eventually arrive in Botany Bay, New South Wales, where a penal colony would become the first European settlement in Australia.

History of Australia (1788–1850)

History of Australia (1788–1850)

The history of Australia from 1788 to 1850 covers the early British colonial period of Australia's history. This started with the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson on the lands of the Eora, and the establishment of the penal colony of New South Wales as part of the British Empire. It further covers the European scientific exploration of the continent and the establishment of the other Australian colonies that make up the modern states of Australia.

Australia Day

Australia Day

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Observed annually on 26 January, it marks the 1788 landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove and raising of the Union Flag by Arthur Phillip following days of exploration of Port Jackson in New South Wales. In present-day Australia, celebrations aim to reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community.

Organisation

The Day of Mourning protest was organised by the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), based in New South Wales and led by its founders Jack Patten and William Ferguson. The protest leaders also had support from the Australian Aborigines' League (AAL), based in Victoria and led by William Cooper.[1] In 1888, the centenary of the arrival of the First Fleet, Aboriginal leaders had simply boycotted the Australia Day celebrations. However, this had been ignored by the media. These groups had also sent petitions to the Australian and the British governments, in the early 1930s, for the recognition of Aboriginal civil rights (including Aboriginal representation in the Parliament of Australia), but they had been ignored or dismissed without serious attention, and each had refused to pass the petitions on to King George V. As a result, a more proactive event was planned for the sesquicentenary, which the media and governments could not ignore. This was despite the recent experience of the New South Wales Police engaging in general intimidation of public meetings of such political organisations.

A blackboard displayed outside Australian Hall proclaims, "Day of Mourning", 1938
A blackboard displayed outside Australian Hall proclaims, "Day of Mourning", 1938

Despite having rejected the APA's petition, Prime Minister Joseph Lyons did agree to meet with the Day of Mourning leaders on 25 January, without any other government officials or media present. However, some media reports at the time attributed this more to Lyons' desire to meet Pastor Doug Nicholls, who was an Australian rules football player for Fitzroy Football Club at the time, than to any desire to constructively negotiate.[2]

The day began with a march through the streets of Sydney, which was attended by both Aboriginal people and non-Indigenous supporters. The march began at the Sydney Town Hall and concluded at the major event on the day, the Day of Mourning Congress, a political meeting for Aboriginal people only. It attracted many major Aboriginal leaders, including Pearl Gibbs and Margaret Tucker. The protesters had originally intended to hold the Congress in the Sydney Town Hall, but they were refused access, and instead held it at the nearby Australian Hall in Elizabeth Street. They were not allowed in through the front door and were told they could only enter through the rear door. Congress was open to all Aboriginal people, and about 100 people attended, making it one of the first mass Aboriginal civil rights gatherings. The APA and AAL distributed a manifesto at the meeting, Aborigines Claim Citizens' Rights, produced by Patten and APA secretary William Ferguson. The manifesto opened with a declaration that "This festival of 150 years' so-called 'progress' in Australia commemorates also 150 years of misery and degradation imposed on the original native inhabitants by white invaders of this country."

At the Congress, the following resolution[3] was passed unanimously:

WE, representing THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA, assembled in Conference at the Australian Hall, Sydney, on the 26th day of January, 1938, this being the 150th anniversary of the whitemen's seizure of our country, HEREBY MAKE PROTEST against the callous treatment of our people by the white men in the past 150 years, AND WE APPEAL to the Australian Nation to make new laws for the education and care of Aborigines, and for a new policy which will raise our people to FULL CITIZEN STATUS and EQUALITY WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.

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Aborigines Progressive Association

Aborigines Progressive Association

The Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) was an Aboriginal Australian rights organisation in New South Wales that was founded and run by William Ferguson and Jack Patten from 1937 to 1944, and was then revived from 1963 until around 1970 by Herbert Groves.

New South Wales

New South Wales

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Coral and Tasman Seas to the east. The Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay Territory are enclaves within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In December 2021, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.3 million, live in the Greater Sydney area.

Jack Patten

Jack Patten

John Thomas Patten was an Aboriginal Australian civil rights activist and journalist.

Australian Aborigines' League

Australian Aborigines' League

The Australian Aborigines' League was established in Melbourne, Australia, in 1933 by William Cooper and others, including Margaret Tucker, Eric Onus, Anna and Caleb Morgan, and Shadrach James. Cooper was secretary of the League.

Petition

Petition

A petition is a request to do something, most commonly addressed to a government official or public entity. Petitions to a deity are a form of prayer called supplication.

Government of the United Kingdom

Government of the United Kingdom

The Government of the United Kingdom, officially His Majesty's Government, is the central executive authority of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The government is led by the prime minister who selects all the other ministers. The country has had a Conservative-led government since 2010, with successive prime ministers being the then leader of the Conservative Party. The prime minister and their most senior ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet.

Parliament of Australia

Parliament of Australia

The Parliament of Australia is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It consists of three elements: the monarch, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The combination of two elected chambers, in which the members of the Senate represent the states and territories while the members of the House represent electoral divisions according to population, is modelled on the United States Congress. Through both chambers, however, there is a fused executive, drawn from the Westminster system.

George V

George V

George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936.

Australian Hall

Australian Hall

The Australian Hall is a heritage-listed community building located at 150-152 Elizabeth Street, in the Sydney central business district, in the City of Sydney local government area of New South Wales, Australia. It was the site of the Day of Mourning protests by Aboriginal Australians on 26 January 1938. It was also known as the Cyprus Hellene Club. The property is owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation, a statutory corporation of the Australian Government. It was added to the Australian National Heritage List on 20 May 2008 and was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.

Joseph Lyons

Joseph Lyons

Joseph Aloysius Lyons was an Australian politician who was the 10th Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1932 until his death in 1939. He began his career in the Australian Labor Party (ALP), but became the founding leader of the United Australia Party (UAP) after the Australian Labor Party split of 1931. He had earlier been Premier of Tasmania from 1923 to 1928.

Australian rules football

Australian rules football

Australian football, also called Australian rules football or Aussie rules, or more simply football or footy, is a contact sport played between two teams of 18 players on an oval field, often a modified cricket ground. Points are scored by kicking the oval ball between the central goal posts, or between a central and outer post.

Fitzroy Football Club

Fitzroy Football Club

The Fitzroy Football Club is an Australian rules football club currently competing in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). Formed in 1883 to represent the inner-Melbourne municipality of Fitzroy, the club was a member of the Victorian Football Association (VFA), before becoming a foundation member of the breakaway Victorian Football League (VFL/AFL) in 1897.

Official celebrations

In order to celebrate Australia Day, the government of New South Wales had planned to reenact the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson. However, all the Aboriginal political organisations in Sydney refused to participate. In response, the Government removed a group of Aboriginal men from an Aboriginal reserve in the west of the state and brought them to Sydney. The men were kept overnight in the stables at the police barracks in Redfern. On Australia Day, they were taken to a beach at Farm Cove, where they were told to run up the beach, to convey the impression that they were fleeing in fear from the First Fleet.

The reenactments attracted heavy criticism from the Day of Mourning protesters, who were not allowed to visit the men from the reserve when they were staying at Redfern. However, the Sydney media focused more on the fact that convicts had been excised from the reenactment.

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Government of New South Wales

Government of New South Wales

The Government of New South Wales, also known as the NSW Government, is the Australian state democratic administrative authority of New South Wales. It is currently held by a coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party. The Government of New South Wales, a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, was formed in 1856 as prescribed in its Constitution, as amended from time to time. Since the Federation of Australia in 1901, New South Wales has been a state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Constitution of Australia regulates its relationship with the Commonwealth. Under the Australian Constitution, New South Wales, as with all states, ceded legislative and judicial supremacy to the Commonwealth, but retained powers in all matters not in conflict with the Commonwealth.

First Fleet

First Fleet

The First Fleet was a fleet of 11 ships that brought the first European and African settlers to Australia. It was made up of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships and six convict transports. On 13 May 1787 the fleet under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, with over 1400 people, left from Portsmouth, England and took a journey of over 24,000 kilometres (15,000 mi) and over 250 days to eventually arrive in Botany Bay, New South Wales, where a penal colony would become the first European settlement in Australia.

Port Jackson

Port Jackson

Port Jackson, consisting of the waters of Sydney Harbour, Middle Harbour, North Harbour and the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers, is the ria or natural harbour of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The harbour is an inlet of the Tasman Sea. It is the location of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The location of the first European settlement and colony on the Australian mainland, Port Jackson has continued to play a key role in the history and development of Sydney.

Aboriginal reserve

Aboriginal reserve

An Aboriginal reserve, also called simply reserve, was a government-sanctioned settlement for Aboriginal Australians, created under various state and federal legislation. Along with missions and other institutions, they were used from the 19th century to the 1960s to keep Aboriginal people separate from the white Australian population, for various reasons perceived by the government of the day. The Aboriginal reserve laws gave governments much power over all aspects of Aboriginal people’s lives.

Stable

Stable

A stable is a building in which livestock, especially horses, are kept. It most commonly means a building that is divided into separate stalls for individual animals and livestock. There are many different types of stables in use today; the American-style barn, for instance, is a large barn with a door at each end and individual stalls inside or free-standing stables with top and bottom-opening doors. The term "stable" is also used to describe a group of animals kept by one owner, regardless of housing or location.

Redfern, New South Wales

Redfern, New South Wales

Redfern is an inner-city suburb of Sydney located 3 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district and is part of the local government area of the City of Sydney. Strawberry Hills is a locality on the border with Surry Hills. The area experienced the process of gentrification and is subject to extensive redevelopment plans by the state government, to increase the population and reduce the concentration of poverty in the suburb and neighbouring Waterloo.

Farm Cove, New South Wales

Farm Cove, New South Wales

Farm Cove is a tidal inlet and shallow bay in Sydney Harbour, separated from Sydney Cove by Bennelong Point, New South Wales, Australia. Farm Cove is one of the places around Sydney Harbour that has been officially gazetted as a dual named site by the Geographical Names Board (GNB). The official dual name for this place is: 'Farm Cove / Wahganmuggalee'.

Convict

Convict

A convict is "a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court" or "a person serving a sentence in prison". Convicts are often also known as "prisoners" or "inmates" or by the slang term "con", while a common label for former convicts, especially those recently released from prison, is "ex-con" ("ex-convict"). Persons convicted and sentenced to non-custodial sentences tend not to be described as "convicts".

Subsequent Days of Mourning

Day of Mourning protests have been held on Australia Day ever since 1938. However, in recent years, National Sorry Day on 26 May, and counter-protests held on 26 January (Australia Day), such as Invasion Day and Survival Day, have been more prominent in Australia.

In 1998, a reenactment of the original Day of Mourning was held to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the protest. About four hundred protesters marched in silence along the original route of the march. Descendants of the original protesters read their speeches, and the ten main grievances in the Congress' manifesto were re-affirmed. The reenactment was accompanied by a campaign to protect the Australian Hall, the location of the 1938 Congress. The Government of New South Wales had placed a conservation order on it, but exceptions to the order allowed everything but the façade to be demolished. The building is now permanently protected.

Source: "Day of Mourning (Australia)", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 26th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Mourning_(Australia).

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References
Citations
  1. ^ "1938 Day of Mourning – Aboriginal Civil Rights Protest". 29 February 2016. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  2. ^ "Mr Lyons Only White Man at Blacks' Deputation". The Koori History Website. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  3. ^ "Proclamation of the Day of Mourning". The Koori History Website. Retrieved 30 September 2005.
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