Indigenous tour leader Cherissma Blackman
Indigenous tour leader Cherissma Blackman Anna Rogers

Local Indigenous leader defies The Greens on Australia Day

AUSTRALIA Day, once the domain of backyard barbeques, cricket matches and hanging out at the beach has become another political football among calls to change the date.

But local Indigenous spokeswoman, Cherissma Blackman says changing the date won't change what happened in the past and part of the healing process for any trauma is to learn, grow and carve a positive journey for the future.

"Greens Senator Richard di Natale has been boisterous in saying he was talking for the majority of indigenous people that we wanted the date changed," she said.

"I've spoken to my family and clan groups and that isn't the sentiment around here.

"I don't know who he's talking to but there's a lot more pressing issues in the indigenous community than changing the date of Australia Day."


Warren Mundine at Parliament House in Canberra.
Warren Mundine at Parliament House in Canberra. Kym Smith

Ms Blackman's voice joins that of other Indigenous leaders, including Warren Mundine and Alice Springs councillor, Jacinta Price who also say Aboriginal people have bigger issues to worry about.

Mr Mundine (below) has criticised The Greens for pursuing the move and individual councils for pushing to make a decision on a national issue.

"If you want to make us feel good, then let's start dealing with the unemployment, the health and the education of Aboriginal people," he said.

Cherissma Blackman said the focus should be on issues like youth suicide and housing, not the date of Australia Day.

"When we keep carrying the hurt and the pain of our ancestors, we are susceptible in being oppressed," she said.

"It makes us more vulnerable in being oppressed and that's the last thing I want to take forward.

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"The history of this nation is what has shaped and moulded us to the society we are today.

"Australia as a society has grown since the outlaws and convict society of the 17,18 and 1900's and we as First Nations Australian's should no longer be prisoners of what happened to our ancestors.

"I don't say this with arrogance, but with empowerment."

She says she has heard the stories from the elders and from her grandmother and the atrocities, dispossession, removal of families and massacres would always be remembered, but it is time for Indigenous people to longer be slaves to the past.

Her views are in stark contrast to Indigenous Victorian MP, Lidia Thorpe, who has called for flags to be lowered to half-mast on Australia Day for the mourning, grief and deep pain to be recognised.

Ms Blackman acknowledges her views will be challenged by both the right and the left, but says she is being practical and dealing with the reality of the situation.

"Don't get me wrong," she said.

"Survival Day will always be Survival Day and I'm not saying we should just cover the wound and move on.

"This doesn't let the onus stray away from the current three tiers of government, to give First Nations peoples a hand up - yes, we are one.

"Bob Hawke promised a treaty and I would like to see a treaty, but let's take the first step first, because this will keep coming up every year on January 26.

"The motive for change should be a joint objective of Australian society.


Conrad Ingra, Mick Eggmolesse, James Benjamine, Adam Bond and Tinoy Canendo at Barney Point on Australia day.
Conrad Ingra, Mick Eggmolesse, James Benjamine, Adam Bond and Tinoy Canendo at Barney Point on Australia day. Mike Richards GLA260117BARNEY

"This isn't about changing dates, let's change attitudes and self-belief as a nation.

"How we do this is up to us all.

"When we look at practical reconciliation, we have come a long way as a nation.

"We can celebrate Australia Day together, but enshrined in the First Nation cultures.

"Celebrate Aboriginal cultures in the morning in a positive light and then what the day brings after that is up to Australian society."

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