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Why the Indigenous community is divided when it comes to Australia Day.

“The Greens are the Pied Piper and you’re the rats.”

This is the angry accusation that’s been levelled at supporters of the #ChangeTheDate movement.

And it’s a part of the debate you may not have heard.

It may surprise you to learn the words are from an Indigenous woman, and they are part of a statement posted by Alice Springs councillor Jacinta Price. The Indigenous leader has shared on Facebook the story of a woman she regards as her “sister…[who] is a true survivor and the kind of Aboriginal woman our leaders need to listen to.”

The statement takes direct aim at The Greens Party, whom Price’s friend feels have caused “a huge division between us, Indigenous pitted against Indigenous, Black against whites in… some of the most vile and racist hate speech.”

The Greens reignited the debate earlier this month, when party leader Richard Di ­Natale reinforced the group’s opposition to celebrating the national day on January 26.

The Senator described changing the date as one of the party’s priorities this year, committing to backing any Greens councillor who campaigns to move the date.

But whilst the announcement was popular, it frustrated some Indigenous leaders, who argue we should abandon the divisive debate and leave the date alone. Price is one such voice who has criticised them for their agenda, which she feels has little to do with constructive action for her community.

The post on Price’s page observes:

“You have never spoken out about stopping the violence, stopping the alcoholism, stopping the child abuse and sexual assault…Shame on you!”

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The impassioned words are brutally honest about the author’s experience.

“You cry and you scream about changing the date while there are children like me, little boys and girls living the same life I did as a child, living in constant fear of violence and sexual abuse,” says the writer, who also points out she also has many positive memories about Australia Day.

A screenshot of the post asking Australians to "celebrate, don't hate".
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Price posted the words to demonstrate her agreement with them. As she told ABC radio, she has a personal reason for not needing the date to be changed, and it strikes at the core of her identity.

“I’m not just indigenous. I’m half white Australian, and I wouldn’t be here today if the [First Fleet] hadn’t arrived, and neither would many mixed heritage indigenous people who speak out against the date."

Last week, Shadow Human Services Minister and Labor MP Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman elected to the federal lower house, called for an end to the debate and a renewed focus on health, education and employment, as they are “at the top of the agenda for changing the life chances of Indigenous Australians”.

Respected Indigenous businessman Warren Mundine echoed Burney's concerns: "If you want to make us feel good, then let's start dealing with the unemployment, the health and the education of Aboriginal people rather than dealing with this issue."

Whilst Burney's words have received support, Price's stance has become controversial, with the councillor having to explain herself to online trolls, who've accused her of disloyalty. This is mostly because Price has supported Mark Latham's "Save the Date" campaign. She's appeared in a video for the cause, and received immediate backlash for it.

Of course, Price's - and Burney's - position doesn't reflect that of all Indigenous people.  But, agree with them or not, their opinions are undeniably out there and part of the discourse.

Price's friend in her Facebook post ends her statement with a call for a different approach to reconciling the past with the future; "On Australia Day, celebrate, don't hate."

But it's obvious there will be much debate before we can get to that point as a nation.

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