PITCHING HISTORY: Githabul elder Sam Bonner loves the Australia Day Cricket Carnival and remembers when he used to play as a young man.
PITCHING HISTORY: Githabul elder Sam Bonner loves the Australia Day Cricket Carnival and remembers when he used to play as a young man. Marian Faa

Indigenous elder says its time to get on the same team

INDIGENOUS elder Sam Bonner may be a big fan of the cricket carnival, but when it comes to Australia Day he doesn't share the same passion.   

Mr Bonner said it was devastating to know Aboriginal history was constantly being erased.

"They've completely forgotten about us," he said.  

Mr Bonner is an elder of the Githabul people, whose traditional lands span from Woodenbong to Tooloom and extend north to Warwick. When asked about his thoughts on Australia Day, it seemed the date was the least of his concerns.

The struggle for recognition is one that unites many indigenous Australians, and there's no greater reminder of that struggle than our national holiday.

"It's a time for celebration, yes, but you know a lot of people wouldn't like the truth," he said, referring to the dispossession of Aboriginal land.

He was critical of prominent indigenous leaders, who he said were more concerned with maintaining the status quo than setting the record straight.

"There's a lot of people out there who are supposed to speak up for us, but they don't say the right things," he said.

" They're too busy trying to be popular."  

The national celebration falls on a historic day when the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson, New South Wales.

But Mr Bonner said many of the settlers wouldn't have survived without the help of his ancestors.

"A lot of them wouldn't remember, but we were the only ones around to help them out on their farms.

There weren't any machines back then," he said.

"My grandfather pulled corn and did lots of fencing and building… they were good carpenters. 

"When they talk about this country, they don't talk about us much and we're the ones who lived here for 50,000 years," he said.

In his view, Mr Bonner said Australia Day should be an inclusive celebration that commemorated the traditional owners of a continent that was once divided into hundreds of small nations belonging to indigenous families and clans.

Local indigenous woman Sharman Parsons agreed, and said it was important to remember that the country's history in its entirety.

"It's great that we have this vibrant culture and all races that we are celebrating, and the food and the beaches and the bush," she said.

"But we also need to look at the wonderful ancient culture of our indigenous peoples, which is often ignored in that celebration of things."

Ms Parsons has devoted her life to educating people about Australia's indigenous culture and history through tours, talks and performances as the Cicada Woman.

"Original peoples have incredible stories and beautiful culture and memories that should be given to the younger generation," she said.

"This is so important, this is who we are, this is part of our history.

"Until that is done we feel like we're not part of the story and there is still that sort of presence of confusion about what is the real Australia.

Like, do we include those thousands of years beforehand? Yes please, let's get with the program."

Mr Bonner agreed but as the day drew closer, he reflected with mixed feelings.

Despite his view there is a lack of recognition, the respected elder also had some fond memories of a favourite local tradition.

Mr Bonner remembered playing in the first Warwick Australia Day cricket carnival at Slade Park.

Batting, bowling and fielding for numerous teams around the district, Sam was known for his integrity and dedication to the gentleman's game.

When asked if he would be attending the carnival this year, he paused.

"Oh yeah, I might go and have a look," he said.

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