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Elders say Australia Day is an opportunity to reconcile and work together in the South West

Claudette RizziSouth Western Times
Elders Lesley Ugle and Greg Little shared their sentiments on Australia Day and what it means for Indigenous peoples.
Camera IconElders Lesley Ugle and Greg Little shared their sentiments on Australia Day and what it means for Indigenous peoples. Credit: Claudette Rizzi/South Western Times

Local Aboriginal elders want Australia Day to be a time that can be harnessed to enhance reconciliation rather than division as latest research shows less than a third of people want to change the date from January 26.

South West elder and chairman of Harvey Aboriginal Corporation Greg Little said the community and both sides of politics should focus more on trying to improve the health, education and employment prospects for Aboriginal people.

“As far as Australia Day goes and changing the date, I don’t think it will make any difference,” he said.

“It’s good to see that some councils are still celebrating Australia Day. I would love to see it stay as it is until I am no longer here.

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“Let’s straighten things out and get reconciled.”

Harvey Aboriginal Corporation board member and community leader Lesley Ugle believed changing the date of Australia Day could be beneficial by encouraging “constructive conversations” around the challenges facing Aboriginal people.

She said she wanted to see a “growing awareness of issues”.

“I’m hoping that we can have constructive conversations, myself personally, changing the date as a nation, whilst being respectful and help break down colonially embedded stigmas around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” she said.

The latest community survey on Australia Day by Painted Dog Research for the The West Australian, found only 29 per cent of West Australians wanted to change the date with another 16 per cent who did not care either way.

Mr Little believed that Australia Day would not change the past and the memories will not be forgotten but that improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was the key to moving forward.

“I’ve always been one for having Australia Day regardless of what we argue about today,” he said.

“I’d say reconciliation is one of the biggest points we need to focus on, if we focus on that then doors might open.

“You’ve got to want to reconcile. There is always something good in everybody, you’ve only got to search for it.

“People argue about whether we should keep Australia Day (and) welcome to country ceremonies. When is it that we are going to walk together?”

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