parent opinion

How to talk to your kids about January 26.

What will you be doing on Friday this week? Will you be flying your Aussie flag, heading to the beach, catching up with friends over a BBQ? Will you be attending an Invasion Day or Survival Day event? Or will you be using it as a day to reflect on our nation’s uncomfortable history, and educate yourself? 

Whatever we might feel as adults, for our kids it can be a confusing time.

Whether they’ve caught the news about 'woke' retailers removing January 26 merchandise, overheard adult conversations around the date or learned about the history of the date at their preschool or daycare, your kids might have some questions about the date and its meaning. 

There is no right or wrong way to talk about January 26, but seeing it as an opportunity to educate is a big step towards helping our kids learn more about our First Nations history; he kind of Australian history education we never got when we were at school. 

The significance of the date. 

First, let’s be clear. Why do we celebrate January 26. It’s the date the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove (now Circular Quay) to establish a British colony and raise the Union Jack Flag. But it was also the start of a very bloody and traumatic time for Aboriginal people, and First Nations people still live with the impact of this arrival more than 200 years on. 

Watch: Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

While many people claim January 26 as our rightful day of national celebration, the reality is the date only started being celebrated widely in 1994. Before that, some recognition of the date had been occurring since 1915, and Aboriginal people first started protesting the celebration on this date in 1938. Every year this protest has become more vocal and more widely recognised. 

Learning together.

Rather than keeping your children in the dark about the date, look for age-appropriate resources to talk to them about the significance of January 26, and the perspective of First Nations people on this date. There’s a reason many call it a Day of Mourning, Invasion Day, Survival Day or even Aboriginal Sovereignty Day, rather than choosing to openly celebrate it as our 'national day'. One person’s day of 'harmless' celebration is another’s harsh reminder of our very painful past. 

For younger kids, books are a great place to start. Day Break by Amy McQuire and Matt Chun, and The Sacred Hill by Gordon Hookey, are both books that share an Aboriginal perspective of the date and explore the impact of colonisation in an age-appropriate way.

For older kids and teenagers, look for Aboriginal people and First Nations businesses sharing content about the date online, and reshare their posts or support them. Or look for videos where First Nations people share their own experiences of, and feelings about, the date. 

Australia Day by Stan Grant is another great resource for older kids and adults. In this book he explores the Indigenous struggle for belonging and identity in Australia and what it means to be Australian. 

A healthy debate. 

Change is always hard.

And for many, the idea of changing the name of the date or moving our national day to another date is not easy to accept.   


But I believe we can have a healthy and respectful debate around the date, rather than resorting to anger and name-calling. 

Many people say January 26 is about unity, but while it’s celebrated on a day which marks the start of hundreds of years of suffering for our First Nations people, we’ll never be truly unified in our recognition of what it means to be Australian. 

As parents and adults, we need to model healthy debate, and show how we too are using this date as a chance to learn more about different perspectives and experiences. Show your solidarity with Aboriginal people by attending one of the marches, protests or events taking part on the day to commemorate the true history of the date, or by using this as an opportunity to learn more about our history, and to show up for the First Nations people in your community. 

I hope that one day, we can all celebrate together in a way that recognises all Australians and all experiences, rather than leaving some of us feeling hurt, rejected and irrelevant.  

Jessica Staines is an early childhood educator, professional speaker, author, advocate and advisor. As the founder and director of Koori Curriculum, Jessica is committed to helping educators embed Aboriginal perspectives into early childhood education. She has played many significant roles nationally and internationally in building cultural understanding, reconciliation and harmony, including as an Indigenous advisor to ABC’s Playschool.

Jessica’s family are originally from Wiradjuri country, but due to displacement have lived off-country on Gadigal and Wangal lands for four generations. Jessica is proud to be a Wiradjuri woman, and today lives on Darkinjung Country with her husband and two children.

Feature Image: Getty.