Australia Day – What Does It Even Mean?
Is it really a time to celebrate what it means to be Australian or another day of faux patriotism.
I thankfully didn’t grow up with all the flag wearing, drunken behaviour that seems to mark the passage of this “national day” now. It was something of a non-event in our household really. Maybe coming from an Irish background extended family or maybe that it was taken as a given that Yes we are all Australian so what else is new.
In those days most of as children were blissfully unaware of the appalling treatment of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people. We were taught in ’history’ that Captain Cook “discovered” Australia and Terra Nullius which is a sort of “finders keepers” approach to invasion. What we were never told was that Indigenous Australians were treated as “fauna”, denied citizenships and had their children violently removed in efforts of forced integration. It was only in 2008, that our government got around to apologising for this atrocity. Many, many other atrocities remain unresolved, unacknowledged and continue to be places of great pain for many people. We were also never informed of the reasons behind the White Australia policy (mostly hatred toward Chinese by miners which led to restrictions on Chinese Immigration). Nor we informed of the importation from the United Kingdom of unaccompanied children as young as three who could bolster our immigration and eventually supply Australian with lovely white Australian children. Many of their parents (mothers) had been told their children had died and spent years grieving for them.
For Australia Day to continue to have meaning for all, can we at least consider?
- 1. For everyone’s sake can we have another day
Why are we continuing to hold a national day to celebrate the arrival of the first fleet and the planting of the British flag. I can hear people say “the day is more than that” but officially it is not. The day was proclaimed nationally in 1946 although Anniversary Day was celebrated in various states prior to this. I think the feeling of patriotism of post war 1946 would be a vastly different place to contemporary Australia. The date of our national day needs to change to become something that has meaning for all Australians, at present it is divisive, exclusionary and lacks contemporary understanding. I agree with what Noely has to say at http://thinkyness.com.au/article-display/kid-logic-26-nov-for-australia-day,18
2 Lucky for who?
The term “The Lucky Country” was first coined by Donald Home in a book of the same name. He has since lamented that successive generations have misapplied this phrase. They were used as a wake up call not as an affirmation of the Australian way of life. It was an aspiration phrase of who we could become not who we currently are.
Have we arrived at the place of utopia..no. Not when we are leaving so many behind. Not when politicians can win elections based on fear, suspicion and falsehood and catchy 3 word phrases. Not when we are more concerned with what we don’t have than what we do have and not when we are driven by rampant consumerism and capitalism that destroys our environment and wildlife.
We now have the most appalling treatment of asylum seekers and refugees than any country in the western world. Those that manage to survive the treacherous sea voyage in leaky fishing boats find themselves in prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island. They live in conditions condemned by the United Nations. Children are born without the dignity of birth certificates, families are separated, women are humiliated and many Australians watch this unfold on their large screen plasma TV’s and cheer. This to them is the hallmark of a “good government”
What have we come to?
As Victoria Rollison says “Arent We Better Than This?” http://victoriarollison.com/
3 Can we reset our moral compass
The first fleet arrived on these shores uninvited, unannounced and certainly without the correct documentation. British troops killed and mistreated Aboriginal people and Irish /Anglo “convicts” alike. Plenty of fabulous reading abounds on this score. Just a few of my favourites include:
- Blood on the Wattle by Bruce Elder
- The Fatal Shores by Robert Hughes
- Females on the Fatal Shores by Susanna De Vries
This is our history and we can’t change that but we can learn from it. We need to have politicians who stop acting like they are colonisers off the first fleet and start building a country that is inclusive and tolerant of all people. Condemnation of racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and any other form of injustice towards people needs to come from our elected leaders. They cannot be the sparks that light the bush fires.
Lets work toward becoming a republic so that this will give us a new day in a new Australia.