Narelda Jacobs On Why ‘There’s A Different Mood’ Surrounding January 26 This Year

Image courtesy of SBS
While Narelda Jacobs has previously hosted television broadcasts related to January 26, she says that the mood surrounding the date — that marks the colonisation of Australia by the British back in 1788 — is different in 2023 compared to previous years.
"There's a different mood because we have something that we are aiming for, and it's just a huge year," the Whadjuk Noongar woman tells Refinery29 Australia.
"Australians are going to a vote on whether or not they want an advisory group to have elected First Nations community members in federal parliament," she says. "As [First Nations lawyer] Noel Pearson said this morning, it's a vote from Australians as to whether or not they want reconciliation in this country."
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Jacobs is referring to the upcoming referendum, where Australians will be asked whether they vote in favour of an alteration to the constitution to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. While a date is not set in stone, it's been reported that the referendum could take place as early as August 2023.
"It's about Australians deciding what they want Australia to be and what they want Australia to aspire to be."
The presenter will co-host NITV and SBS’s Sunset Ceremony program on the evening of January 25, and says that discussing what January 26 means to different people, at an important time in the national conversation, will come without judgment.
"No perspective of a First Nations person, or any Australian for that matter, should ever be dismissed because they're all open for discussion," she says.
"We're going to be quite reflective, and hearing from First Nations people and other members of our community. We're not going to tell you what to think. We're not going to bombard you with the do's and don't's. It's just about taking on board other people's lived experience, and deciding for yourself."
As for what January 26 represents to her personally, Jacobs says it "signifies the beginning of trauma that would then last generations and generations".
She believes action needs to be taken to address the distribution of wealth in Australia — which in turn can address the poverty gap, the separation of families, and the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
"We can aspire to close the poverty gap, and in doing that we can improve the quality of life of First Nations people so they're not living under the poverty line," says Jacobs. "We can make sure that children aren't just taken away... and that money is used to strengthen families rather than tearing them apart."
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She also emphasises Australia should "not jail First Nations people because it's an easy option".
"These people who can't afford to have legal representation, they don't deserve to be behind bars. There's so many different gaps that can be closed when you close the biggest gap of all, which is the distribution of wealth."
When people ask what they can do to be an ally to First Nations people, Jacobs says it's about ensuring they listen to what they have to say.
"It's just centring First Nations voices in whatever way you live your life or whatever circles you move in," she says. "You might be involved in a sporting club or some kind of community group or school community. If there's no First Nations perspective being included in all those things, then that should be your starting point.
"I'm a firm believer that if you put First Nations people first, then everyone benefits."
Broadcast from Yurong Point, Gadigal Country (Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Sydney), the Sunset Ceremony hosted by Narelda Jacobs and John Paul Janke will air on Wednesday, January 25 at 7:30pm on NITV and SBS. It will be simulcast on 10 Play, before being encored on Thursday, January 26 at 6am on Channel 10 10 and at 12pm on NITV and SBS.

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