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TV shows and documentaries to watch on January 26

Always was, always will be.
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It’s more than just a date. January 26 marks the British invasion in 1788 when captain Arthur Phillip led the First Fleet into what is now known as Sydney Cove (Eora: Warrane). It signifies the beginning of a history of colonisation and genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

It’s also now the date the Australian Government chooses to celebrate Australia Day, making us one of the few countries in the world that celebrates colonisation as their national day. But “Australia Day” was not formally celebrated on January 26 until 1994. The Day of Mourning was actually established first in 1938, 56 years before “Australia Day” became the national holiday.

As such, the day is often referred to as “Invasion Day,” “Survival Day” or “Day Of Mourning” by some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While the conversation around the importance of this date continues to be held, it’s key to listen to their voices.

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Writer and actress Nakkiah Lui penned, back in 2014:

“Most people just want a day to celebrate the place that they call home, to be part of a community, and to guide Australia into the future. I am one of these people, so why can’t we celebrate this on a day that includes all Australians? Surely there must be another historically significant date that can be trumped up to include every person in this country. But ignorance is bliss, right?”

If you want to listen to more proud First Nations voices this year on January 26, there’s no better place to start than the National Indigenous Television (NITV) and the wider SBS network.

Tanya Denning-Orman, a proud Birri and Guugu Yimidhirr woman and SBS Director of Indigenous Content, said: “Every year, in the lead up to and on January 26, the whole of the SBS network – with NITV as its heart – comes together to present a special line-up of programming and content across our platforms and in more than 60 languages, which celebrates the strength, beauty and power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and the resilience and achievements of First Nations peoples.”

australia day protests
Protesters attend an Invasion Day march. (Credit: Getty Images)

The NITV broadcast includes celebratory music program Sounds of Solidarity and a live broadcast of the WugulOra Morning Ceremony from Gadigal land, as part of Always Was, Always Will Be content slate.

From 7.30am on January 26, NITV’s broadcast of WugulOra, which means “one mob,” will be hosted by proud Jerrinja and Wandi Wandiaan woman Shahni Wellington and proud Wuthathi and Meriam man John Paul Janke. Taking place at Barangaroo Reserve, the ceremony is a sacred and reflective start to January 26, celebrating Aboriginal cultures with special performances by singers and dancers, and providing a reminder that First Nations peoples are the foundation of Australia’s story and caretakers of the world’s oldest continuous living culture. 

At 2.30pm, NITV will air Sounds of Solidarity, a program celebrating the powerful and enduring legacy of First Nations music and cultures by showcasing iconic music videos, interspersed with news updates. It’s hosted by proud Wiradjuri and Western Arrernte woman, Executive Producer and Presenter of NITV Radio, Lowanna Grant, proud Yuin and Thunghutti man, rapper and presenter Nooky and Australian Indigenous Butchulla Songman Fred Leone.  

Also on January 26, NITV News coverage and updates across broadcast and digital platforms will provide ongoing reporting and insight . The coverage will be led by NITV News presenter and NITV’s Head of Indigenous News and Current Affairs, Natalie Ahmat, a proud Mudburra and Wagadagum woman. 

Two-minute bulletins air hourly on NITV from 2pm, with the coverage culminating in a special one-hour bulletin at 5.30pm.

There is also the Always Was Always Will Be content slate, including the powerful new NITV documentary Her Name is Nanny Nellie, Leah Purcell’s award-winning film The Drover’s Wife, The First Inventors, First Australians, History Bites Back, The Australian Wars and more.

nitv january 26 programming
(Credit: Photo by Salty Dingo)

See the full guide to NITV and SBS’ January 26 programs here.

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