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What is the role of small businesses on January 26th?

Australia Day, also known as Invasion Day or Survival Day, is a contentious holiday that is celebrated on January 26th each year. The holiday marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson in 1788, which is considered the beginning of British colonisation in Australia.

For many Australians, this day represents the beginning of a long period of violence, displacement of first peoples, and oppression. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to recognise the harm caused by the colonisation of Australia and to respectfully mark January 26th as a day of mourning and reflection, rather than celebration. The movement calls for a change in the date of Australia Day, as well as the recognition of the history and ongoing struggles of Indigenous Australians.

As an employer or manager in an Australian workplace, it is important to be aware of and sensitive to the perspectives and experiences of Indigenous employees and colleagues.

Here are some ways that Australian workplaces can respectfully mark January 26th:

  1. Acknowledge the history of the day: It is important to acknowledge the historical significance of January 26th and the impact it has had on Indigenous Australians. This can be done through a statement or memo from management, or through educational materials or workshops.

  2. Respect different perspectives: Recognise that not all employees may feel comfortable celebrating Australia Day. Be open to and respectful of different perspectives, and create a safe and inclusive environment for employees to express their views. Some businesses are offering staff to work on the 26th and take another day off in lieu.

  3. Support Indigenous employee groups: Many workplaces have employee groups that focus on diversity and inclusion, including Indigenous employee groups. Support these groups by providing resources and opportunities for them to lead discussions and events related to January 26th.

  4. Donate to Indigenous causes: Consider making a donation to an organisation or charity that supports the community and promotes reconciliation. This can be a way to show solidarity and support for first nation Australians.

  5. Change the date of company events: If your company has planned events or celebrations for January 26th, consider changing the date to another day. This can be a way to show respect for all Australians and acknowledge the harm caused by colonisation.

As a leader, many staff will look to you to acknowledge the history of the day and the impact it has had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Your leadership can reinforce your culture of respecting different perspectives, fostering a safe and inclusive environment for employees to express their views, and playing a role in promoting reconciliation.

It is important to remember that the fight for the recognition of the abuse of Indigenous people's rights is ongoing and the refusal to celebrate Australia Day is one aspect of this struggle. By acknowledging the history of January 26th and showing respect for different perspectives, workplaces can play a role in promoting reconciliation and supporting Indigenous Australians.

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