COMMENT: It should come as no surprise that AFL star Adam Goodes was named Australian of the year for 2014 on the eve of Australia Day.
He follows in the footsteps of many indigenous Australians who have received the award and his selection reflects one of the award’s charter principles, to focus on the status of indigenous people.
Mr Goodes, who has been a champion against racism in sport and wider society, as well as a champion sportsman, joins the company of Lionel Rose (1968), Evonne Cawley (1971) and Cathy Freeman (1998).
While Mr Goodes will undoubtedly continue his mentoring work with young Aboriginal people, challenge racism on and off the field and raise the profile of indigenous issues in 2014, there is scope to reflect how members of our indigenous community could have a more active role in Australia Day here in Orange.
The fact that there was no one from the Aboriginal community at Orange’s Australia Day celebrations to conduct the welcome to country ceremony may reflect poor communication more than anything else, but the discussion does open the door to considering changes to future Australia Day celebrations.
There was for example a colourful multicultural parade highlighting the ethnic and cultural diversity of Orange on a morning which also featured the popular citizenship ceremony.
And yet one of largest and certainly the first ethnic group in Orange was not represented. As one Aboriginal resident said, there is no doubt that some indigenous people see Australia Day as a very sad day when all that they have lost since European settlement is brought into sharp relief.
Given Orange’s large indigenous population consideration should be given to what ceremonies and events could be introduced to the program to make it a more meaningful experience for them.
If that is to happen, organisers should consider the words of 2014’s senior Australian of the year, Fred Chaney, who said on Saturday at his investiture that improving the Aboriginal experience had to be done by working with them, not to them.