Our Survival Day on January 26: ‘We are going to create that change if you’re not going to do it’

Get the latest from Beat


Our Survival Day on January 26: ‘We are going to create that change if you’re not going to do it’

Words by Jacob McCormack

Our Songlines is an 100% First Nations owned and led organisation established by CEO Kayla Cartledge, a Gurindji woman, born on Larrakia country that now lives on Bunurong / Boon Wurrung land.

Our Songlines focuses on conscious forms of cultural learning delivered in safe and creative ways, drawing upon ancestral knowledge and providing activities for all ages, genders, interests, allies and Mob.

Kayla created Our Songlines to bring forth to the wider public a selection of accessible and engaging lessons and teachings in Indigenous culture. Having grown up with little access to this herself, Naarm/Melbourne being over an hour train ride away, the intention behind Our Songlines was to provide the community with easier access to culture.

Our Survival Day

  • An incredible lineup of local artists, experiences, food and market stalls together to share in the same cause
  • Featuring Mitch Tambo, Dallas Woods, Jalgany, Caution, 2 Lubly and Fresh Verse
  • January 26, 2023 at The Briars, 450 Nepean Highway, Mount Martha
  • Tickets available here.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Our Survival Day (@oursurvivalday)

In its third year running, Our Songlines brings their event Our Survival Day into the fray of events on offer on January 26. For Kayla and her community, the day acts as an opportunity to reflect, engage in truth-telling and revel in Aboriginal art, culture and knowledge.

“For us, we focus on how far our people have come,” says Kayla. “To consider what they have done that has led us to be here and to be able to create this space and tell our stories and continue the 65,000 years of culture.”

“It’s really important that it is a day of mourning, reflection and learning and not a day of celebrating. The Australia day celebration makes it feel like it’s trying to erase the past and forget the atrocities that have happened. So, we try to counteract that and say ‘No, this is what we see the day being, and we are going to create that change if you’re not going to do it.’”

It is especially important for Kayla, who when she was younger was torn between enjoying the company of friends who chose to celebrate on January 26, and attending rallies driven by the necessity for change and acceptance of Australia’s history.

“When I was a young person we would go to the march in the morning,” says Kayla. “And then in the afternoon, I’d go off to a barbecue. It was such a confusing period of time and now I get to go to this with my friends and it feels so much more like me.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Our Survival Day (@oursurvivalday)

The impact that an event like this can have on the community is a fundamental component to what drives Our Songlines and their endeavours.

“There have been some really toxic things that have happened previously on Australia Day, which has pushed people away from celebrating it and found them looking for other options. People are trying to steer away from the drunken barbecue situation and look for something more meaningful.”

Our Survival Day is exactly that – an event situated on a significant site for Bunurong people that welcomes anyone into a community environment where First Nations storytellers are generously sharing their stories through art. This year, the theme of the event is centred around storytelling and deep listening, and the team at Our Songlines have curated the arts and cultural offerings to reflect that.

“We wanted storytellers,” Kayla says. “People who were sharing Aboriginal history in their performance, whether that is through dance, meditation or hip-hop performances. We wanted that to be the focal point and we based the lineup around that. The theme is deep listening, so we wanted people to come in and learn in a range of different ways.”

In a climate where blatant refusal by local, state or federal governments to support events like Our Survival Day remains common, Kayla and her team are reliant on the generosity of volunteers and community donations.

“It’s not supported,” says Kayla. “We don’t have any government funding. It’s funded primarily through Aboriginal businesses, Aboriginal community funds and ticket sales. It is very much grassroots and very reliant on the community to want the space and urge for that space.”

January 26 provides all Australians with an opportunity to reflect upon what the day has originally been recognised for. The Our Survival Day event is great opportunity to seek out an alternative way of spending the nationally-recognised public holiday.

Tickets are available here. Visit the Our Songlines website here for more info, and donate to Our Songlines here.