Australia Day or Invasion Day? Should the date be changed?



OF COURSE NOT!!! Says every patriotic Australian.

But how does Australia day really affect Aboriginals and how did the invasion by England affect their lives.

To understand this, we need to go back to when Australia was forming and look at how Aboriginals were treated then and how this was affecting their lives then and now.

This can be explored through Jack Davis’s No Sugar.

No Sugar is an Australian play written by Jack Davis, an Aboriginal Playwright, which was written to expose the way Aboriginals were treated during the 1930’s. It follows the story of the Millimurra family’s as they move from Northam to Moore River and fight against ‘government protection,’ more like government segregation/ control.

Jack Davis was born in 1917 and was brought up in Moor River, to many people’s surprise, moving there in 1932, which is around the same time the book is set. Funny that. No Sugar address the horrific way Aboriginals were treated and handled by the Wetjala (white person) at that time and how little care Wetjala had for Aboriginals, which Jack Davis has personal experience with.



The Effect of Colonisation

Due to the colonisation of Australia by England, England tried to civilise Aboriginals into the Australian society, more like English society. This resulted in many Western past times including reading newspapers, playing cricket and having tea becoming a part of the Aboriginals lives as well as the English language, and the change in culture, power and living conditions.


Western past times are presented in No Sugar through the use of stage directions and props. “Sam Millimurra prepares mugs of tea, lacing them generously with sugar” Page 9, Act One, Scene One (stage direction). Before the colonisation of Australia, Aboriginals did not have tea or sugar. Due to colonisation they have now become dependent on Tea, Sugar and other English pastimes such as these.  While these past times have been introduced to Aboriginals, their living conditions and hygiene had not improved. Many where not living in the same conditions as civilised Wetjala Australians at that time and had to work and live in horrible conditions, with low income.


Examples of the poor living conditions the Aboriginals had to deal with are represented in No Sugar through the use of props. The Millimurra Families where not allowed soap in their rations, “Milly: Whose idea was it to stop the soap?” Page 17, Act One, Scene two, due to budget cuts but the Wetjala wanted them to have handkerchief’s. “Neville: I’m a great believer that if you provide the native the basic accoutrements of civilisation you’re half way to civilising him. I’d like to see each child issued with a handkerchief and instructed on it’s use.” Page 18, Act One, Scene Two. Wait your giving the Aboriginals handkerchiefs but not soap!! If you gave them soap maybe they would not need handkerchiefs in the first place. CRAZY!!!! This was not helped by the fact that the Aboriginals had low income because they could only get horrible jobs and would not afford to buy there own soap, they had to get it from the ration.


What a sour situation.


A symbol in No Sugar that is used to represent their sour situation is Quandong, which are, who’d guess, Very Sour. A scene where this is used is Act Two, Scene Nine where Mary and Joe are running away and Marry has very bruised and lacerated feet. To represent the sour situation they where in the symbol of the Quandong is used. “Mary: Oh, that feels good. (she bites into a quandong.) Aagh! They’re sour!” Page 69, Act Two, Scene Nine (stage direction).


The Attempted Destruction of Aboriginal Culture:

Before Wetjala tried to civilise Aboriginals, they tried to get rid of them completely with mass Genocide. This unfortunately for the Wetjala failed as we still have Aboriginals. A notable attempt of mass Genocide occurred in Tasmania. This is referred to in the book when one of the Wetjala’s complains about the Aboriginals. “Sergeant: Too late to adopt the Tasmanian solution.” Page 39, Act One, Scene Seven. As Wetjala failed to get rid of Aboriginals completely they tried to civilise them instead and thereby getting rid of their culture. A Symbol of this in No Sugar is when the Wetjala burn the belongs of the Aboriginals, including the Millimurra family, after they moved from Northam to Moore River. This represents the Wetjala wanting to get rid of the Aboriginals and their culture from Northam to make their perfect white Australian town.


While the Wetjala did teach the Aboriginals the English language and introduce them to the English Culture, they were unable to get rid of the Aboriginal Culture. This is shown in No Sugar through the language and techniques of the Aboriginals and how they mix this with the English language and culture. “Jimmy sharpens an axe, bush fashion” Page 9, Act One, Scene One (stage direction), this represents the Aboriginal Culture that they have keep. While they participate in English Culture “David and Cissie play cricket with a home-made bat and ball” Page 9, Act one, Scene One (stage direction). Their language is also mixed with English language “Gran: Ay! You…dewarra you mirri up and get them clothes down the soak, go on!” Page 10, Act one, Scene One.



The Controlling Power

The controlling power during this time was the Wetjala, and let’s just say they majorly abused their power. Mr Neal was the Superintendent at the Moore River Native Settlement and fun fact is a real person and not just a character in the play.




And guess what he is not the only one. Jack Davis knew both Mr Neal and Mr A.O Neville, the Chief Protector of the Aboriginals in Western Australia, personally. It can be assumed that how these characters act in the play would be similar/the same as how they acted in real life. That is scary that a people like Mr Neal and Mr A.O Neville were actually in charge of people. Let’s just say Mr Neal was not the nicest or well behaved person in the world. I don’t believe he actually cared about his job at all.


In No Sugar Mr Neal is represented as a drunk, who abuses his power for his own benefit. He abused his authority as he constantly came to work drunk, “Mr Neal approaches. He is hungover” Page 57, Act Two, Scene Five (stage direction), and prays on the women/ girls that work in the hospital, “Mary brings him a tea on a tray. He leers at her body.” Page 58, Act Two, Scene Five (stage direction). How the hell was a pedophile/drunk employed to be Superintendent of the More River Native Settlement.

Unfortunately, Mr Neal was not the only pedophile. Many Aboriginal women were sent to work in the domestic service, more like slave service, and quite a few of them would come back pregnant. I wonder what happened? It is not possible it had anything to do with the men they went to work for.


That is just not plausible.




No. Yeah it had to be the men. Who else could it be?


Aboriginal women were subjected to sexual abuse by the men they were meant to work for. “Miss Dunn: Of eighty who went out in the domestic service last year….. Neville: Thirty returned to the settlement in pregnant condition.” Page 16, Act One, Scene Two.


Say What?



Australia Day

Act Four, Scene 5 of No Sugar represents Australia Day in 1934 at the Moore River Native Settlement. Scene 5 shows the Australia Day ceremony and it does not end well. It is clear in this scene that the Aboriginals do not like Australia Day as they destroy the ceremony by making a parody of the song There is a Happy Land, Sister Eileen had taught them all.


“There is a happy land,

Far, far away.

No sugar in our tea,

Bread and butter we never see

That’s why we’re gradually

Fading away.” Page 93, Act Four, Scene 5 (Aboriginal Parody).


This resulted in a fight (verbal to be clear) between Jimmy, Neal and Neville. This shows the clear upset and unhappiness of the Aboriginals view of Australia Day, through there parody of the song. In the end of scene 5






Jimmy dies of a heart attack.




This is foreshadowed at the start of the book when he cuts his finger open with an axe. “He nicks his finger with the axe and watches the blood drip to the ground.” Page 10, Act One, Scene One (stage directions). As Jack Davis lived in Moore River Native Settlement he would have had to sit through similar Australia Day ceremonies, during the time he was there.



Australia Day for Aboriginals brings up the horrors of how their ancestors suffered during the invasion of Aboriginal land and how many of their ancestors, society and culture were wiped out in an effort to produce the perfect Australian society.


How can we blame them?


How would you feel if your home was invaded?


Australia day celebrates the birth of Australia, but is also seen as the invasion of Aboriginal land. If England had not invaded Australia which country would have instead? Would the Aboriginals been left to their own devices or would another country have taken it over? Could England have cooperated with the Aboriginals? This is all history so we have no way of knowing. The question is what will we do now?


Should we try to change the day in respect of the Aboriginals to repay them for the horrors we put them through? Or should we keep the date the same to celebrate Australia and it’s diversity?


This Question is for you to answer.


What should we do?


Is it Australia Day or Invasion day?



by M.L.






One thought on “Australia Day or Invasion Day? Should the date be changed?

  1. Interesting spin! I like how you’ve camped your analysis of the play within a contemporary contentious issue.

    Your style here is great too. You’ve got a real sense of personal voice and it’s one that I think your readers would appreciate. That is, if they can overlook your errors in spelling and punctuation which can be distracting at times.

    Well done!


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