Aboriginal elders, leaders and community members in the Kimberley have respectfully weighed in on the national debate around whether or not to change the date for Australia Day ahead of the annual public holiday. While many plan to celebrate at social gatherings and formal proceedings for their day off next Tuesday, a growing section of the public protest commemorating January 26 as it symbolises the impact of British settlement on Indigenous people, with some labelling it either “survival” or “invasion” day. Broome-based Noongar elder and National Australia Day Council member Dr Robert Isaacs said the annual celebration was about bringing the entire population together across the country. “It gives Australian people, young and old, a day off to recognise the history of this country and how it brings people from all around the world together,” he said. “We can’t look back all the time and I am in a position where I can say that. “I was brought up in an institution run by Catholic nuns without my mum or dad; I was taken at the age of six years old. “I don’t look back, I got on with life as anyone else does and have been successful.” The former WA Person of the Year recipient and Freeman of the City of Gosnells, who moved to Broome two years ago, said there was plenty to celebrate about the country. “I can’t speak on behalf of others, for my Aboriginal folk, but I am still for Australia Day,” he said. “The good of the nation should come together and be a part of this day of what Australia provides — we are at peace. “I’ve been involved with the NADC for over 30 years and in all my years I’ve never had an Aboriginal person come and front me about celebrating Australia Day on January 26.” WA Greens Kimberley candidate and Yawuru/Wadjarri woman Naomi Pigram said the issue was a worthy debate every single Australian truly informed on the date’s significance should have the right to determine. “The present date is January 26, 1788, which is purely a date worthy of celebration by the United Kingdom and its descendants in Australia,” she said. “We have had many other significant dates in our recent history that has brought Australians closer as a multicultural nation. “Unfortunately, we did not learn of these significant moments in our political history through our education system that leaves us ill-informed of our true history, hence the confusion around the date.” Ms Pigram said everyone should peacefully express their take on the date as the nation grew, healed and celebrated. “It is a time for most Australians to celebrate, but for many other Australians it is time of reflection and survival, which is hard to celebrate,” she said. “I urge all Australians to be respectful of your fellow citizens’ right to their views on the date but encourage everyone to continue the discussion of, is this the right date for us all?” A rapidly increasing number of younger people have also started speaking out on the issue, with some using social media to share their views and advocate for the date of the day to either be changed or abolished completely. Kimberley Community Legal Services community outreach and education officer Tallulah Bieundurry said the date represented the unwinding of cultures and traditions recorded to be more than 60,000 years old, but worried the ongoing debate detracted from more serious issues affecting Aboriginal people. Broome man Joseph Bin Omar said a celebration on the current date by “giving it the mantle of our national holiday” was a big disrespect to the suffering and genocide of Aboriginal people and their culture. “Australia obviously has a pretty dark history given the treatment and oppression of our Indigenous people — the significance of January 26 clearly indicates the beginning of this,” he said. “If certain people in power and wider community can’t push to change the date in being more inclusive, how can I expect their attitudes, steps towards reconciliation and justice for my Indigenous people to change either?” The Shire of Broome is set to partner with not-for-profit organisations to host the Australia Day Celebration at Town Beach on Tuesday, including a citizenship ceremony, community awards, breakfast and live music. Deputy president Desiree Male said the Shire had not received any requests to amend the date. “We are looking forward to welcoming 27 new Australian citizens, revealing our community citizen of the year award winners and coming together for the first time in 2021,” she said.