Marking Mabo Day

Limbr is an Australian organisation. We'd love to grow into something more global one day, but even if that happens, our roots to Melbourne and Australia will remain strong.

Even though Australia is our home, we recognise that it is far from perfect. Back in January, before this blog existed, I wrote on my own about how we at Limbr would like to see the date of Australia Day change. January 26th marks the date of the invasion of the land now known as Australia, and the genocide and dispossession that followed - things that should not be celebrated. Indeed, this date is by its very nature divisive.

So, instead of January 26th, we decided to take Mabo Day - June 3rd - as a day to recognise the evolving identity of our nation. A day where we can both celebrate and reflect. After writing that post we found out that Propeller Aero already had similar plans, and Icelab followed suit as well - it was nice to know we weren’t alone.

Mabo Day was this weekend, and so I want to take this moment to reflect.

When January 26th came around, there were a mixture of opinions on whether changing the date was worthwhile. Our politicians again failed to acknowledge how the current date of Australia Day represents pain and suffering to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. But also, importantly, some voices within those communities expressed disdain at the campaign to change the date.

This is completely understandable. Changing the date is, in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. There are far greater and more meaningful challenges to tackle, such as the paternalistic and harmful government policies and the corresponding lack of self-determination; the systematic racism that our society has been built upon; the lack of treaties with the First Nations of this land.

We've had symbolic changes in the past. One of the biggest of those occured 50 years ago: the 1967 referendum. As Bruce Pascoe notes, even though this passed resoundingly, "it didn't stop the intervention, or deaths in custody or the stealing of children, or the institutionalisation of racism within the constitution."

Leaders from a broad range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations gathered at Uluru recently to discuss and find consensus on the topic of constitutional recognition. The resulting Uluru Statement is essential reading for all Australians.

Many have already spoken on the need for meaningful, substantive reform, rather than something purely symbolic. It is critical that non-Indigenous Australians take the results of this convention extremely seriously - if we want things to improve, then we must follow the lead of those impacted by any legislation or future referendum.

For Limbr's part: while we will continue to treat January 26th as a normal working day, we acknowledge that it is purely a symbolic change. We will look for other, larger ways to agitate for more meaningful change - and that includes within our organisation. There is a great need to make it far easier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to access mental health services. We’re not yet sure what our way forward is for this goal, but it is on our radar, and we know we’ll be engaging with other organisations from those communities to help make this happen.

We will continue to listen to the multitude of voices in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to respect their wisdom and experiences, and to support their ventures. We will continue to push for a more inclusive, compassionate Australia.

Of course, these are just words. We’re still finding our feet as an organisation, and are wary of talking too much without acting. So please, feel free to send feedback and suggestions our way, and keep us honest and accountable.