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'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

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Cozzies ‘quietly’ mark Australia Day celebrations

Friday 28 January 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Economy, National

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Cozzies ‘quietly’ mark Australia Day celebrations
Monica Young and Mii Upu celebrate Australia Day at Vaiana’s Bar & Bistro back in January. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/22012702

Although the crowd was not as big as last year’s event, a decent number of locals and visitors turned up to celebrate Australia Day at the Vaiana’s Bar & Bistro in Nikao on Wednesday night.

Mii Upu, one of the organisers, has fond memories of Australia. She first visited the country in 1972 with her cultural dance group performing shows all over the country, and has lived there for many years.

“My children have settled in Western Australia and have bought homes, so Australia is like second home to me,” Upu said.

Joining in the fun at Vaiana’s Bar & Bistro. PHOTO: MELINA ETCHES/22012704

Her connection to the country was one of the reasons she joined the Australia Day celebrations.

However, not everyone sees Australia Day as a day to celebrate. In recent years, the celebration has become controversial because of a “change the date” campaign.

Friends catch up at the Australia Day celebrations. PHOTO: MELINA ETCHES/22012705

January 26, which is observed as Australia Day, is the date that commemorates the arrival of the “First Fleet” of British ships at Sydney in 1788. Some critics call it “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day” as it marks the beginning of dispossession of the continent’s indigenous people.

The Australian High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Dr Christopher Watkins in a statement said: “Australia Day is a complicated day for many Australians. Here in Rarotonga the High Commission will take the opportunity to quietly mark the friendship between our peoples, and also to reflect on Australia’s ongoing reconciliation journey.”

Tina Upu, Sylvana Taoro-Puia and Teina Etches join the quiet celebrations. PHOTO: MELINA ETCHES/22012708

“I hope all Australians in the Cook Islands will find an opportunity to pause and look to our future, and to acknowledge the incredible legacy of our rich continuing indigenous culture and the diverse peoples, including tens of thousands of ‘Cozzies’, which make up modern Australia.”