Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Day Off


Today, 26th January is Australia's national day, named rather imaginatively - "Australia Day".

For the first two hundred years of our history, Australia Day was a celebration of the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, or the first White Settlement as it was known for many years.

In 1988, the year in which the bicentenary of settlement was celebrated there was a not imperceptible shift in official policy:

There is a greater awareness of the need to celebrate modern Australia - a land of diverse ethnic makeup, a country working towards reconciliation with its indigenous people and a nation gearing itself for the challenges of globalisation, the removal of previously safe assumptions regarding national identity, and the uncertainties of a new century. Australia Day is the centre of an evolving nation.


Today, the official Australia Day website describes the day thus:

On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation.


Now there's nothing at all wrong with that in itself, but it looks to me that in the race to "reconciliation" our actual history is being smothered, or perhaps slipped under a beach towel. It seems to me these strangely anonymous powers that be, are hoping our history will fade, that we've grown beyond it, that for some reason we can't be proud of it as though being great in some way makes up for an apparently dark past.

They're making a big deal of swimming in blow up pools and eating hamburgers shaped like maps of a Tassie-less Australia without giving a thought to the fact that here, notwithstanding the challenges of globalisation, they'd be called rissoles, not hamburgers.

It's not that I'm against having fun, far from it, I just don't think that we have to get too introspective about celebrating our history. We certainly don't have to morbidly "reconcile" every time the moon rises, neither do we need to apologise for our place in time.

I do think that being told to have fun, or more correctly being directed to have fun by a quasi government department is to put it simply, UnAustralian! Or would be, if there was such a thing, which of course there cannot be, but that's for another day.

The reality is of course, that notwithstanding the apparent need to advertise the fact, we never did care too much about what it was about, as long as we get the following Monday off work, and that we do.

Australia Day is worth a Public Holiday!

The only thing that could beat that would be taking a sickie!

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2 comments

Shelley said...

I had a slightly different experience of Aus day this year... surprisingly, we did get a little bit of sunshine initially, and there was a triple J Hottest 100 countdown party (I guess you're not into that Dad?), but no pool, no cricket, and no outdoors for the most part. Still, there was good company and an awful lot of australians. Even in another country I'd have to say its the best public holiday of the year.

bitingmidge said...

We spent the day helping Ab and Mat move house, but today, there is a mob descending on the Home of the Biting Midge and there'll be boats and canoes and sun and we'll re-enact the first landing I think.


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