Thursday, 4 August is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.
Catherine Liddle, CEO of SNAICC and an Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, cites the late Uncle Archie Roach and the Uluru Statement from the Heart in explaining the significance of this day.
Catherine Liddle writes:
Took the children away,
The children away.
Snatched from their mother’s breast
Said this is for the best
Took them away – Archie Roach, Took the Children Away
National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day celebrates our young people while reminding us that actions of the past still echo into our future, as our much loved songman Uncle Archie Roach expressed so beautifully.
We celebrate Children’s Day on August 4 as the date was historically used to communally mark the birthdays of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children taken from their families – the Stolen Generations.
Children’s Day was established by SNAICC in 1988, the bicentennial year. The day would demonstrate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were loved and valued by their families and communities, their culture and achievements deserved to be celebrated.
Because 34 years ago this was not the prevailing view in Australia. There was still a belief that we did not know how to look after our children, that our culture held no value, that Australia was still ‘terra nullius’ at the time of Cook’s landing.
Like our country, National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day has grown since then. More than 200 early years centres hold events to mark the day, organisations get on board to support and more than 15,000 Children’s Day bags are highly sought after and distributed.
Through this year’s theme children will explore what their Dreaming means to them and their future. Our stories, songs, dance, art, science and languages will be shared and embraced by our young ones and their families.
A momentous shift
Children’s Day also turns a lens to the futures of our young people – a future where far too many face being removed from their families, caught up in the youth justice system, less likely to reach developmental milestones than non-Indigenous children.
In the words of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers, They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem, This is the torment of our powerlessness.
For more than 200 years systems have been built without us, that directly impact us. In many cases they were deliberately designed to suppress and silence us. Before this, we had 60,000 years of successfully bringing up children.
Over recent days we have seen a momentous shift in the national conversation around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, giving an opportunity to refocus on what we want for the future of our children and our country.
The Prime Minister’s speech at the Garma Festival outlined a possible new way forward. Along with a draft question on the Voice and form of words to be included in the Constitution, Mr Albanese made note of the work of the Coalition of Peaks in closing the gap.
He said: “When a government listens to people with experience, with earned knowledge of kinship and country and culture and community…when we trust in the value of self-determination and empowerment…then the policies and programs are always more effective.”
This is recognition of the work we already do, that SNAICC has done for more than 40 years.
As a member of the Coalition of Peaks, SNAICC and other organisations are doing the work under the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap to reform, design and deliver better systems to our peoples.
We need to see governments progress the full implementation of the National Agreement with the same effort and attention as the Voice. Both efforts are important, it is possible to pursue both and we expect and deserve nothing less.
All governments must demonstrate they are prepared to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices that have been speaking for decades, to share the power, the decision-making that affects our lives and the lives of our children.
When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country – Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Happy National Aboriginal and Islander Children’s Day. Join with us on August 4, 2022, to celebrate our children, their achievements, our cultures and a shared future of hope.
The children come back
Back to their mother
Back to their father
Back to their sister
Back to their brother
Back to their people
Back to their land
All the children come back
The children come back
The children come back
Yes I came back. Archie Roach, Took the Children Away.