Australia is a country of diverse cultures. There are many celebrations and holidays recognised in this vast land that have come from different cultural backgrounds
1 July is Coming of the Light Day in Australia. It’s a day to celebrate living on the continent as well as sharing a sense of nationhood.
The “Coming Of The Light” represents coming out from darkness into light. It symbolises the arrival or birth of emerging into awareness or enlightenment after spiritual darkness. In other words, it symbolises an awakening.
Australians have celebrated this day for centuries. For them, it’s a considerable day of significance.
To learn everything you need to know about 1 July Coming of the Light, continue reading.
Before the Coming of the Light
Torres Strait Islanders had contact with Muslims long before the arrival of Christian colonisers. This is a lesser-known fact about Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Even to this day, Islam continues to appeal to some Aboriginal peoples.
Traditional Indonesian boats called praus played a part in this history. They brought Muslim fishermen to the area. They travelled from the flourishing trading city of Makassar in search of sea cucumbers, or trepang.
It’s not clear exactly when Makassan traders arrived. However, some historians say they discovered the area as early as the 1750s.
The 1 July Coming of Light Celebration marks the arrival of Christian missionaries. In Australia, there are mixed opinions about the event. Depending on who you ask, you might hear a positive or negative sentiment.
Some people believe that the missionaries caused native Aboriginals to lose sight of their culture. In part, this circumstance unfolded because the missionaries viewed some Aboriginal cultures as inhumane.
When the missionaries arrived, the Aboriginal people quickly adopted Christianity. However, they continued to practice the peaceful parts of their traditions and ways of life along with the belief.
Celebrating the Coming of the Light
Torres Strait Islanders had maintained a deep connection with the sea, land and sky for thousands of years. The island lies between Papua New Guinea and the Cape York Peninsula.
The entire area consists of around 274 islands. It covers 48,000 square kilometres.
For years, agriculturalists, fishermen and hunters inhabited the island. They maintained deep beliefs, customs and traditions.
On 1 July 1871, however, the London Missionary Society arrived on Erub Island. Reverend Samuel McFarland led the party.
At that time, Dabad was the Warrior Clan Elder of Erub. He witnessed the arrival of the missionaries.
Dabad confronted the missionaries prepared to slay them to defend his people. However, McFarland dropped to his knees and presented the Bible to Dabad on his approach.
Dabad accepted the Bible, now known as “The Light.” With this gesture, McFarland introduced Christianity to the Torres Strait Islands.
Resultantly, Torres Strait Islanders adopted Christian beliefs, ceremonies and rituals. Now, they’re part of their Aboriginal culture.
Each year, the people of Torres Strait Island celebrate the transition from darkness into light. The event encompasses a long history of storytelling, dancing and reenactments of the beach encounter.
The Introduction of Christianity in Torres Strait Island
In the late 1800s, speculators regarded Torres Strait as a strategic waterway for natural resources and trade. However, missionaries were more interested in the people of the region.
Resultantly, the London Missionary Society targeted Torres Strait Islanders and other people in the area. Its mission was to convert these individuals to Christianity.
The Society accomplished this mission on that day. Again, there are mixed opinions about the influence of Christianity in the area.
Eventually, for instance, this introduction led to exploration. In the early 1900s, anthropologists removed many important native artefacts. In part, the discovery of the anthropologists led to the opinion that the area consisted of souls that they must rescue.
Indeed, the missionary influences resulted in disadvantages. It destroyed many of the cultural practices of the natives. It also resulted in considerable encroachment of Aboriginal land.
Throughout the mid-19th Century, Torres Strait Island residents witnessed a momentous change. Maritime industries such as fishing emerged.
Also, European nationals started frequenting the beaches to collect pearls and beche-de-mer, or sea slugs, as a delicacy. Over time, Torres Islanders adjusted to a new lifestyle.
The event also resulted in an influx of trade and industry. Along with these businesses came an influx of foreign workers.
As a result, the cultural diversity of the area shifted. In doing so, it helped to shape Torres Islander culture and identity.
The Missionary Church
Today, the All Saints Mission Church on Erub Island remains as a reminder of missionary activity, along with other monuments such as the Kemus Shrine. It plays a central part in the yearly 1 July Coming of Life celebration.
The church is an important part of Queensland history. As a result, it’s listed in the Queensland Heritage Register. All these years, the church has survived as an important and prominent landmark.
Change in the 19th Century
The Torres Strait was annexed in 1879. At that time, it became a part of Queensland. Also, the islands were renamed Crown Land.
In addition, Torres Islanders became Australian citizens. The experience restricted access to their rights, as did many mainland Aboriginal people. Other Australians, however, took these rights for granted.
Nevertheless, many examples of the Torres Strait Islanders have survived. Symbols of solidarity and unity of Torres Strait Islanders have also persevered. Eddie Mabo was one such story of perseverance.
His work exposed the legal friction of terra nullius. Terra nullius was Britain’s international law that implied that Australia was an empty land that belongs to no one.
This fundamental change arrived with Australia’s indoctrination into Queensland. Furthermore, it resulted in far-reaching repercussions.
These repercussions altered the stories of the early Australian nation. Furthermore, that repercussion continues to this day. For instance, there are continuing claims to the Native Title.
British occupation forever changed life for Torres Strait Islanders. It also resulted in management and land challenges.
The resilience of the people has had effects beyond the Torres Strait. Because of their tenacity, history will not remember them as a voiceless minority.
They fought for and defended their rights with pride. What’s more, they continue that tradition of pride to this day.
The Coming of the Light and the Aboriginal Peoples
Again, Eddie Mabo was a prime example of the fortitude of Torres Strait Islanders. Mabo lived from 1936 to 1992. He’s known for his pivotal role in campaigning for the land rights of indigenous Torres Strait Islanders.
His work resulted in a landmark decision. Eventually, the High Court of Australia overturned the doctrine of terra nullius.
It also resulted in the official recognition of the rights of Aboriginal Australians. As a result, they recovered their right to own and use land that was in their families for millennia.
The High Court decision holds notable historical significance. The decision played out in the case of Mabo and Others vs The State of Queensland. This event affected the foundations of the story of the people of Australia.
It marked the first time that common law acknowledged the interests of the indigenous people. It also helped to realign circumstances with Aboriginal customs, traditions and laws. Ultimately, Mabo vs The State of Queensland exposed terra nullius as a legal fiction.
Today, Torres Strait Islanders remain proud of their achievements as a people. This momentous event is now also an important part of the 1 July Coming of Light Celebration.
Reflecting on the Day
Today, Anglicanism is widely practised on Torres Strait Island. For instance, members of the Torres Strait Islander Anglican Non-Geographical Parish worship regularly. The members’ commune at the Trinity Anglican Church in Fortitude Valley.
Each year, they look forward to the Coming of Light celebration. However, they believe that Jesus was always present in Torres Strait Islanders.
They express that he was there even before the missionaries arrived. To this day, they maintain their spirituality, as well as their link with the sea, sky and land.
The indigenous people have always believed in a creator. However, they weren’t familiar with Christianity before the arrival of missionaries.
With the Coming of Light, however, the people made that connection. Still, they received God before the arrival of the missionaries. As a result, they believe that he was always with them.
Now, Anglicans look forward to the Coming of the Light each year. It gives them an opportunity to learn more about Christ and each other. However, it also gives them an opportunity to commune with the local traditional custodians of Brisbane land.
The annual celebration is an opportunity to celebrate Islanders’ culture, food and stories. More importantly, it’s an opportunity for an expression of faith.
The Coming of the Light Today
Each year, Torres Strait Island residents eagerly prepare for the anniversary of the Coming of the Light. It’s an official public holiday. Members of the community work tirelessly to organise events. Together, they help to plan and manage the local festivities.
Every year, community members faithfully gather to mark the historic event. However, 2021 is the first year that Torres Strait Islander Anglicans will celebrate with the wider community for four days.
More importantly, however, it’s a day that brings the community together. Still, it’s also a day of commemoration. The Coming of the Light is a way to acknowledge the events that happened in July 1871. It’s unique to Brisbane culture.
What’s more, it’s a part of the nation’s history. Likewise, it’s a part of Brisbane tradition. Between Thursday 1 July and Sunday 4 July, free activities will take place across the island. More than 200 Torres Strait Island artists will visit Brisbane for the celebration.
This year also marks another important milestone for the Coming of the Light. It’s the 150th anniversary of the celebration.
Unity in Remembrance
During the celebration, various groups will reenact the events that took place on the Brisbane River. Performers will come from Boigu, Saibai, Dauan and Erub Island. They’ll perform traditional dances of their respective islands.
During the celebration, residents can also participate in free cultural workshops. These workshops will include:
• Coconut husking
• Kulap making
The celebration will also include an interactive traditional village experience.
Furthermore, the Queensland Museum will host an exhibition. The exhibition is called Island Futures.
The exhibit will start on 25 June. There, visitors can view Torres Strait Island artefacts.
Gathering and participating in these and other events has significant meaning for Anglicans. It’s also important for the wider southern Queensland community.
The day represents a unique opportunity to learn about the Torres Strait Island culture. It’s also a day to share expressions of faith.
Participation in the Coming of the Light is an opportunity to build understanding and respect for Torres Strait Island peoples. It also helps to further reconciliation between the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous peoples.
The Coming of the Light is a significant time to honour and respect culture and history.
The Coming of the light celebration has a significant meaning. However, it’s also a day of joy.
Many participants look forward to the dancing. Still, the Coming of the Light Celebration in Australia is not just about celebrating, but also supporting people the community and its beliefs.
Supporting the Australian Muslim Community
The Coming of the Light Celebration is an important and meaningful day for Torres Strait Islanders. Across the country, they’ll gather to celebrate their cultural heritage. They’ll also share stories, dance and sing together in celebration of this special occasion.
The Torres Strait Islanders are proud people who have maintained their culture and traditions despite the many changes that have occurred in Australia. They celebrate with joy on this special day, knowing they can remain strong.
Celebrating our past can help us understand who we are today.
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