It seems fitting that the name Canowindra comes from the Wiradjuri word meaning home. Canowindra has been home to European settlers from 1829 onwards, when 640 acres were granted to James Collits by Governor Ralph Darling. Yet our town sits on ancient land, home of the Wiradjuri people for tens of thousands of years. The Wiradjuri were known as the “people of the three rivers” and lived peacefully upon the rivers.
The people of Canowindra are a diverse group in 2021, weary from ten months of COVID restrictions and looking for hope in a new year. Every year, Australia Day marks the end of the summer holidays and calls for one last celebration. This year, the usual Australia Day ceremony will be held at 1:30pm at the Canowindra Services Club with the yearly yabby race starting at 3pm.
Celebrating Australia is a time honoured tradition, yet some would rather celebrate our nation on a different day. For First Nations people, the 26th of January, which marks the day the First Fleet arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788, is seen as the start of losing land, culture and family.
Brad Draper, a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation who spent his childhood in Canowindra, spoke to the Phoenix about the challenges of the day.
“Australia Day is a controversial day,” Brad said. “For me, I am a proud Australian Aboriginal but that day is a day that is looked upon by some Aboriginal families as a day of sadness.”
When asked how non-indigenous Australians could support Aboriginal Australians on this day, Brad’s answer was simple. “Recognition,” Brad said. “I challenge people to go on a process of discovery and research Aboriginal history. Once this history is recognised it will send people on a path of reconciliation and understanding.”
Canowindra and its surrounds are blessed with incredible ancient history. The Age of Fishes Museum showcases that history beautifully with fossils 360-70 million years old.
Brad encourages all Australians to uncover the fascinating history right on our doorstop, urging locals to read up on Stan Grant Senior’s work on the history of the Wiradjuri people, contact the Aboriginal Land Council in Cowra or even visit one of the oldest structures on earth, the Aboriginal Fish Traps at Brewarrina.