Noongar elder Robert Isaacs wants Australia Day to remain January 26, promote reconciliation

Robert Isaacs.
Robert Isaacs.

NOONGAR elder Robert Isaacs has spoken of his desire for Australia Day to remain on January 26 and urged people to treat it as a day of reconciliation.

In a speech he will deliver in Albany on Australia Day, the 2015 Western Australian of the Year states the day should be used to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

However, as national discussion rises over a potential change of date for Australia Day, the Gosnells resident said he was in favour of keeping the day as it currently is.

“We should not be politicising this day. We don’t need the Government to tell us Australia is ‘sorry’ for the past wrongs, there are enough Australians who have already done this and many will continue to say ‘sorry’ in the future,” Dr Isaacs said.

“I understand that some Aboriginal people are frustrated at Australia Day, as they feel a disconnect and a lack of identity with the way it is celebrated.

“The solution really should be for us all to find a way to include a celebration of Aboriginal culture and acknowledge the past as part of Australia Day.”

Having spent 26 years as an Australia Day Council of WA member (including a stint as chairman), Dr Isaacs said he believed attempts to change the date were causing division and instead wanted people to focus on creating unity.

“We cannot change the past, we are damaging our own people, causing division and we have to move forward together to get past this. You cannot go forward, while always looking back,” he said.

“I think the time has come for us to stop being so divisive, we need to get everyone onside, from farmers to CEOs, recent migrants and refugees to those who have been here for generations.”

Dr Isaacs said Australia Day should be a day for people of every culture to come together and recognise the past, but also celebrate the present and work towards improving the future.

“The hurts of the past must be acknowledged, but they cannot continue to overshadow the way forward and the only way forward is for all of us to come together, on one day,” he said.

“We can participate in Australia Day by standing up and saying, we are the First Australians, we are one of many who make up this great nation, let us work together to make it greater.

“To me, it is an opportunity to acknowledge Australia’s past and its future, a day to celebrate all that we are and pay our respects to what’s happened in the past.”

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