January 26 means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So we asked some Australians of all makes and models what they thought:
Dr Anita Heiss
Author, Wiradjuri nation
To me, January 26 is a day for both reflection and celebration. As the date marks the beginning of the invasion of Australia and the process of colonisation that followed, it’s important for me as an Australian to stop and reflect on a story that is often forgotten by commentators and every day Aussies amongst the official ceremonies and backyard BBQs across the land, that of Australia’s First Peoples.
But it is also a day when I celebrate the survival of the oldest culture in the world. I always attend the Yabun festival in Sydney, which was first conceived as the Survival Concert back in 1992. This event (duplicated in various forms nationally) showcases the talent that thrives in the Indigenous community today. It is a day when our arts and culture are enjoyed by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and international visitors alike.
Blogger, writer and TV presenter
Australia Day gives me the chance to reflect on the wonderful country I live in. I love the diversity of it all and I wish more Australians appreciated it. The ‘us and them’ attitude in Australia saddens me – we are all equals and we all have the same great opportunities available to us.
I come from a multicultural family – my Mum is from South Africa and Dad is English. They met in South Africa and came to Australia to escape the Apartheid in 1981, before I was born. In South Africa they had to hide their courtship – I say they are the personification of the INXS song Original Sin. It was Australia that gave them a better opportunity at life together.
I remember when I was starting school and Mum encouraged me to ask my Australian ‘aunties’ to teach me the Australian national anthem. My parents are now Australian citizens, and I think they now know the Australian national anthem. They laugh at some of my ocker expressions.
This Australia Day will be spent with my Mum (she’ll be telling me to turn the Hottest 100 down because the music’s too modern for her) and we will be planning our trip to New York in July. I reckon when I arrive in America, and hit the BlogHer conference with the other Aussie bloggers, I’ll be the most patriotic I’ve ever felt. I want to do Australia proud!
Refugee, UNHCR representative
As an Australia citizen, celebrating Australia Day is very important to me because it makes me feel like I am home, especially when I come from a country that had war for over 10 years.
I am blessed to be in a country that is so safe but most of all that has the loveliest people in the world. I was born in West Africa, Sierra Leone, which was devastated by civil war, where I was kidnapped for a few months.
Living in Australia and calling Australia home means everything to me, because to me “home is where the heart is” and Australia is where my heart is. And now that I’m about to start my own family, it makes me so happy that my children will be even safer.
I thank God everyday for not just protecting me from the war but for also providing me a safe home and having wonderful Australian people in my life. I tell you “ it feels so lovely to have two family.” My birth family and my Australia family.
Thank you Australians for welcoming me to your home.
The greatest Australia Day I’ve ever had was watching twenty people become new citizens.
They came from different places, arrived at different times. One Chinese man had been living in Australia some twelve years before applying for citizenship. His daughter and her boyfriend waved the Australian flag from the front row of the audience. The man beamed with pride. A Scottish family, all decked out green and gold, went for it just five years after their arrival. There they all were, standing on a makeshift stage in a suburban shopping centre, waiting for their certificates. They sang the national anthem like it was the greatest song they’d ever heard and the rest of us welcomed them with wild, emphatic applause.
To me, that’s who we are. Unless we are indigenous to this land, we were all new here once. Every new arrival strengthens and enriches us.
Being Australian means continually working hard to make this country what it could and should be.
I like to think this means making it a welcoming place for people who come from other countries, and an honouring and equitable place for the people that lived here for tens of thousands of years. It means celebrating our amazing successes and being honest about our failures. It means championing our achievements in the arts and sciences as much as we do in the sports. It means having a strong economy and a healthy environment are not seen as mutually exclusive. It means that we do not feel threatened by our differences, but instead see them as essential to a healthy democracy and flourishing society.
Do we do all these things at the moment? No. But I believe the capacity is there, and the will. And living up to our potential: now surely that’s Australian?
Blogger, Mum of 3
To be honest, as a kid I don’t remember Australia Day being all that important. I put this down to the fact that we didn’t receive a public holiday back then. I think this says a lot about me as an Aussie. Having said that, I whipped the hat around and questioned my three children as to what Australia Day means to them. Maddison, 12, responded with “Friends.” Sam, Aged 9 answered with “Swimming” and Jack, aged 5 responded with “Boobs”.
Australia Day for us started around 5 Years ago when we were invited by a bunch of (newish) friends to have a BBQ by the beach. I’m not even sure any of us really expected to enjoy the day, but 5 years later, it is now a tradition. One of us will get down there early and set up. Someone else brings bacon, eggs and the Weber. Someone else brings the Champagne and OJ. And then one of us will bring the music. Then we swim. And eat. And catch up on a year’s worth of news. Someone else starts a game of unashamedly mismanaged tipsy cricket. And then we swim again.
So that to us, as an Australian family, is what Australia Day means – friendship. And being able to enjoy the amazing life we have had the good fortune of being born in to. That of course, and Boobs.
Because I’ve been travelling overseas lately, one of my favourite past-times has been hearing what foreigners think about Australia. Not all of it’s great. In fact, there’s a recurring theme. Norwegians think of us as racist because of Tampa; Indians think we’re racist because of the student bashings; Chinese people think we’re racist because of Pauline Hanson, and when I say, ‘No, she’s not a practising politician any more; in fact, her last public outing was competing in a national televised ballroom dancing competition’, they look at me strangely and I have no idea why. Of course, their criticisms are valid. We often fall short and should know better. But I also enjoy having those same foreign friends finally visit our shores, and seeing their surprise at how casually multicultural and staggeringly diverse we are down here. Travel enough and you realise that mix in society is extremely rare. For me, that is something Australians should toast and celebrate; one giant thing of which to be proud.
What’s your story? Do you celebrate Australia Day and, if so, how?