January 26 – A Day to Mourn, Heal, and Learn – Not celebrate.

Jan 26, 2024

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) is encouraging Aboriginal and communities to check in with family and friends and look out for one another’s health and wellbeing ahead of January 26.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, January 26 is a day of profound pain. However, it is also a day to mark the unyielding resilience, determination, and strength of Aboriginal communities.

January 26 signifies a brutal and rapid colonisation, bringing with it massacres, the theft of children from families, contributing to Communities enduring grossly inadequate health and wellbeing outcomes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continue to suffer, experiencing disproportionately poorer health compared to non-Indigenous people. The 2023 Closing The Gap Annual Data Report found an increase in suicides, more children being taken from families and put into out of home care, a rise in adult incarcerations, and deteriorating outcomes in early childhood development.

The last six months have been particularly challenging for Aboriginal communities in Victoria many of whom are grappling with the health and wellbeing impacts of shameful instances of racism and abuse prevalent throughout the lead-up and aftermath of the October 14 referendum.

VACCHO expresses deep disappointment that January 26 remains a formal day of celebration for Australia. However, VACCHO commends the leadership of the fifteen Victorian councils (and eighty across the country) that have chosen to cease holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO says January 26 is an important opportunity to mourn, heal, and learn about the true history of this country.

“I encourage the Community to connect with family and friends and to look out for one another on January 26, as it is a complex, challenging, and traumatic day for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“At its core, the January 26 Australia Day holiday celebrates colonisation and the genocide of our families and ancestors. From my perspective, it symbolises the beginning of the Frontier Wars and horrific events that changed the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the worse.

“For me, January 26 is a painful reminder of children being taken from their parents and families and the many, many inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience today: a major gap in life expectancy and disproportionate health disadvantages that hinder our way of life.”

“As a proud Aboriginal woman, I want nothing more than to celebrate this country with all Australians – but I cannot do that on January 26. January 26 hurts – and it hurts for most Aboriginal people.”

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Image: The Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian flags. Photo from Shutterstock.

Media enquiries

For further media enquiries please email communications@vaccho.org.au or contact our media unit on (03) 9411 9411.


VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.