Is your Australia Day the same as my Australia Day?
Break out the lammos, Anzac biscuits and the BBQ, it’s Australia Day. But is everyone celebrating?
Australia Day marks the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and, of course, it’s a national holiday. It marks the time that the British claimed sovereignty and the day has become a time of celebrating our pride in the country, commemorating those Australians who’ve lived a life of significance and having a bit of a party.
But Australia Day is not only a celebration of the ‘green and gold’ way of life. The day is known to some as Invasion Day or Survival Day and there was even a push to have the name officially changed but it didn’t get very far. Some Indigenous folk and other Australians recognise that the official arrival of the British isn’t a day to celebrate for those who already inhabited this land and their descendants.
One person’s Australia Day may not be another person’s Australia Day. Indigenous Australians aren’t the only ones who may question the cheery smiles and easy pride in our country. Indigenous folk, refugees, immigrants, gays who can’t marry and the poor might not think that there’s nothing to criticise about the country or our way of life.
If you criticise Australia Day, watch out, because you’ll be labelled a wowser, a member of the Black Arm Band of History group or just unAustralian. But what if all this flag waving, cheering and back slapping makes you slightly uncomfortable?
There’s also a large chunk of ‘ordinary’ people who love living in Australia and are proud to be Australian, but can be realistic about what Australia Day represents and feel sadness for the ongoing plight of Indigenous Australians. Whether you like it or not, it can all be traced back to this day 200+ years ago.
Australia Day shouldn’t be a day of empty praise for this country and hostility towards an honest appraisal of the history of the country and that it can be different things to different Australians.
It would be nice if, in amongst the flag waving and cheering, we can turn our pride into celebrating as well as finding a way to recognise Indigenous Australians and the need to keep focus on improving the lives of the first Australians.