ways to mark 26 January

Posted on 24th January 2023
An image of a protest with a sign held up that says 'always was, always will be Aboriginal land' and black, red and yellow hearts

26 January is officially known as ‘Australia Day’. However, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the day is one of mourning.

This date marks the arrival of the First Fleet, who proclaimed British sovereignty over the already-occupied continent that is now known as Australia. This was the beginning of colonisation, and with it came oppression and violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living here.

As an organisation, cohealth doesn’t believe that 26 January is an appropriate date for an inclusive celebration of our national identity. A large part of our work as a community health service is supporting the First Nations’ community to overcome health inequity, discrimination and disruption of culture that is a direct result of colonisation. We continue to support the #ChangeTheDate campaign, which grows bigger each year.

The #ChangeTheDate campaign says that because 26 January marks the beginning of dispossession, violence and discrimination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, we should not celebrate on that day.

All cohealth staff are given the option to substitute the day for another day off and work on 26 January instead. In 2023, many employees who decide to work on that day will take part in Yakeen Tharn (Dreaming Path) Cultural Safety training, which has been developed by our Yakeen Tharn team.

There are things you can do instead of celebrating on 26 January too. Read on for some ideas.

Attend an event commemorating Invasion Day (sometimes known as Survival Day)

Attend an Indigenous-led walking tour  

Around Melbourne and surrounding areas of the Kulin nation, connect to country by learning of Naarm / Melbourne’s Indigenous history and Wurundjeri culture, including the Royal Botanic Gardens’ Aboriginal Heritage Walk, Koorie Heritage Trust’s Cultural Walk, Wurundjeri Cultural Tour, and the Brambuk Cultural Centre’s Six Seasons Tour. 

Watch films and documentaries on Aboriginal culture and history  

  • Still We Rise, which tells the story of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the oldest continuing protest occupation site in the world
  • The Australian Dream, which tells the remarkable story of Indigenous AFL legend Adam Goodes
  • Ablaze, a documentary Tiriki Onus finds a 70-year-old film believed to be made by his grandfather, Aboriginal leader and filmmaker Bill Onus
  • Looking Black, a documentary that explores the impact of Indigenous storytelling at the ABC
  • Dhakiyarr vs The King, in which the descendants of the great Yolngu leader Dhakiyarr Wirrpanda tell the story of two laws, two cultures and two families coming to terms with the past
  • Ngaluk Waangkiny (Us Talking), which follows the journey of a courageous group of Aboriginal Elders living on Whadjuk Noongar boodja as they fight for respect, recognition and acknowledgement from the City of Perth
  • Rulla’s Connection to Country, which tells the story of Indigenous Tasmanian man Rulla Kelly-Mansell and how his cultural connection to country helped him to overcome mental health challenges, a battle with cancer and isolation during the pandemic 

All these films, and more, are available for free on ABC iView. 


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