Today, January 26th, is celebrated as Australia Day. It commemorates the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in 1788 and the settlement of Australia—up till then inhabited by Aborigines living a more primitive existence as hunters and gatherers—by technologically and in other respects advanced Europeans.
Not everyone sees this day as worthy of celebration. There are those who look back and see the coming of whites as an invasion. There is no doubt that much evil was committed by whites. There was much misunderstanding. Land previously used for hunting was stocked with cattle and sheep and when Aborigines helped themselves to this new source of meat they were killed and mistreated. Then there were the diseases which killed even more Aborigines. The introduction of alcohol also had devastating effects.
However, as historians have pointed out, the life of the Aborigines before the whites came was far from paradisiacal. Tribes attacked and killed one another and stole one another’s women. Since they did not stock up on food but hunted or gathered it as they needed it, droughts decimated their numbers. Weaker members were simply left to die as the tribe moved on in search of food. Life expectancy was much lower.
Today the land has been cultivated to produce a vast amount of food and mined for various minerals, sustaining a much larger population. Much of it is also being exported for the benefit not only of the producers but of people in other countries. Cities have been built offering Aborigines, too, work opportunities and vastly improved living conditions. Whilst Aborigines still face challenges, most are better off. As with whites and those coming from other cultures, there is no lack of food, there are job opportunities for workers, medical facilities are available and children can attend schools. Some have gone to universities and some even became political leaders.
The greatest benefit by far is that the early settlers introduced to them the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mission posts were established, and churches built. Not all missionaries brought the true gospel. Yet by the grace of God many Aborigines embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ and thanked the Lord for leading them to a new and living hope—a life of fellowship with God now and eternally.
There is little to celebrate if one culture, steeped in a man-made religion of mysticism, is merely replaced by a technologically advanced but godless paganism which offers nothing more than a Babylonian culture of self-gratification and no true hope for the future. There is however very much to celebrate, in true thankfulness to God, if the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed and reaches into the hearts of many hearers—both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. That true gospel is being proclaimed. Let us pray that it may please God to yet turn the hearts of many Australians to Him. The extent to which people believe and live as children of God in the joy of the true faith is the extent to which we may really celebrate Australia Day.