Suggestions on marking 26 January
The Sector > Provider > General News > Not sure what to do on 26 January, but don’t want to celebrate? Here are some ideas

Not sure what to do on 26 January, but don’t want to celebrate? Here are some ideas

by Freya Lucas

January 24, 2024

There are many reasons why 26 January and ‘Australia Day’ are controversial, painful and traumatic for First Nations peoples, and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services around Australia are becoming increasingly aware of the need to approach the day with sensitivity, and in a way which reflects the needs not only of their service or local community, but also the requirements of the approved learning frameworks. 


While there is no specific mention of 26 January in either the Early Years Learning Framework or the Framework for School Aged Care (My Time, Our Place) each document asks ECEC professionals to think deeply and to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to consider how to embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in the philosophy of the setting, their planning and implementation of curriculum. 


The newly revised Frameworks remind educators and leaders of their responsibility to create culturally safe places, working in intercultural ways through pedagogy and practice. An intercultural space is created when educators seek out ways in which Western and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems work side by side. 


Against this background, 26 January is a timely reminder that ECEC professionals need to continue to teach younger generations about our history and controversial topics in a culturally sensitive way.


The following is a list of suggestions that can support ECEC professionals to make the most of the occasion, and to use it as an opportunity for solidarity and connection with First Nations people, and as a gateway to healing. 


These suggestions have been adapted from a list provided by First Nations people who are working with the Australian Conservation Foundation, to be consistent with the needs of the ECEC sector. 


This information below was created and shared by Teila Watson and Josie Alec, Community Organiser and First Nations Lead for the Australian Conservation Foundation. 


Learn more about the work of the Foundation here. Those in the Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) space may be interested in the Wild at Art competition for children aged 5-12 years. Learn more about Wild at Art here




Recognising that all individuals are on their own journey of understanding about Australia’s history, the first recommendation is to take some time to learn about the history of First Nations’ resistance and survival, and the persistence of First Nations people. 


Topic suggestions include: 


  • The first recorded “Day of Mourning” protest, when a group of First Nations people gathered in Sydney to protest the treatment of their people on 26 January – 56 years before this day was made a public holiday.

  • The fact that Australia is the only Commonwealth nation in the world that has its national public day of celebration on a day that marks the colonisation of the nation’s First People – an overwhelming amount of countries actually celebrate decolonisation from British rule as their national public day of celebration, or they celebrate independence from the British (like America).

  • The origins and meaning of the sayings you’ll hear at rallies and Acknowledgement of Country, like “sovereignty was never ceded and treaty was never signed” and “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.”


Join a rally or gathering


The next suggestion is to attend a rally or gathering, and stand with First Nations people as they draw attention to the disadvantages still faced today and the need for self determination, and for sovereignty to be acknowledged and respected.


Here are some of the rallies and gatherings taking place on and around 26 January (follow links for more details). This list is not exhaustive, and there may be other rallies available:



There are also online events, including: 



Don’t shy away from tricky conversations 


People all over the country will mark 26 January in different ways. Some First Nations communities mark the day before as the last day of freedom – having a campfire or putting a candle in their window to remember life before colonisation, living in harmony with nature and Country.


For some, 26 January is a day of mourning – acknowledging those families and community members who resisted and fought to protect us from colonisation, and remembering the lives of those lost in the process.


For others still, 26 January celebrates survival, collective strength, resilience, adaptability – and gratitude for our old people’s resistance and our continuing culture.


This 26 January, one way you may wish to spend the day is by having conversations about this nation’s history, First Nations resistance, the meaning of the day, and the threats still facing First Nations communities.


To spark further discussion and conversation, consider the following film and television series (please note, many of these are not suitable for children, and professionals should review content carefully before sharing with others): 


  • Heart of Country: a short film weaving together the stories and songlines of this ancient continent, and the first to protect it from damage caused by fossil fuel and nuclear industries.

  • Voices of the River: an award-winning 10-part documentary series showcasing the inspiring and powerful words from Traditional Owners along the Martuwarra Fitzroy River and their fight to protect it from large-scale water extraction.

  • The Australia Wars: A three-part series that explores the bloody battles fought on Australian soil and the war that established the Australian nation.


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