January 26 is a controversial day. Some celebrate with flags and snags, others join dawn services or protests.

Tensions can be high, but we have to work on healing these wounds.

Mother Earth's cries for help are echoing louder than ever. To solve the climate and extinction crises, we need to collaborate with profound respect for each other.

That's why, as a proud Kuruma Marthudunera woman and ACF's new First Nations' Lead, I want to share some reflections on how together we build unity in our communities. 

1. Let’s keep building our understanding of what January 26 means for First Nations Peoples

Listening from the heart primes us to understand other people's perspectives, breaking down the differences between us.

For my community, January 26 marks the start of settler colonialism, massacres, stolen generations, and the death of carefully maintained ecologies across the continent. It's a day of mourning. That's why many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people oppose this day.

2. Let’s accept the true history of Australia

Hurt and pain will not pass by being ignored. Australia must face both the colonial history of genocide and the structural disadvantages that First Nations people continue to face here.

By honestly facing the past, we can shape a better future. Together.

3. Let’s respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultures

For decades now, January 26 marches have been paired with festivals that celebrate First Nations music, art and food – like the Birak Concert here in Perth, Yabun in Sydney, Share the Spirit in Melbourne, and Survival in Adelaide.

It's a powerful thing to have many First Nations cultures of Australia thriving and visible on this day, and all throughout the year. Make sure to get involved. You can find all of the marches and events happening across Australia on January 26 right here.

You can support First Nations-led movements online as well. Here are a few ACF has worked with, but do look for groups local to you too.

  • Save Our Songlines – a group I helped found in Murujuga to stop new industry on the Burrup from damaging our Songlines, our rock art, our health and our climate. 
  • Seed began as a semi-autonomous branch of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) back in 2014 and is now a fully autonomous movement led by First Nations youth.
  • Country Needs People – a growing group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people campaigning for Indigenous Ranger and Protected Area programs.
  • Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council – the proud Traditional Owners of a vast area of land in central-western Queensland, including the site of Adani's destructive coal mine.
  • Olkola Aboriginal Corporation – Olkola Aboriginal Corporation now holds and manages 869,822 hectares of its Traditional Lands, making it one of the largest landholders in the Cape York Peninsula.
  • Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation for whom the struggle to return and protect their ancestral homelands took nearly 100 years. ACF stood with them for 40.
  • Mirarr people via Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation – the Traditional Owners of land in the north of the Northern Territory. They are powerful advocates against uranium mining, speaking out in the famous Jabiluka campaign, and for Kakadu.
  • Barngarla: Help us have a say on Kimba are fighting an important fight to stop nuclear waste being dumped on Country.

It's an honour to be working beside such amazing people to heal Mother Nature.

I'm excited to have joined the Australian Conservation Foundation to progress the deep listening, understanding, acceptance and respect to help secure a safe future for all of us. To learn more about ACF’s commitment to working with First Nations people, see our recognition and principles page.


Banner image: Geikie Gorge, Kimberley. Photo: Janelle Lugge/Shutterstock.com

Josie Alec

First Nations Lead, ACF