First published in Onya Magazine, on January 25th, 2012.
I’m in the business of celebrating Australia every day. Being Editor-In-Chief of this magazine means I see, do, taste and feel so much of this great land every day of the week. So when I sat down to think about the meaning of Australia Day, I was a little stuck. It’s just another day, after all.
Sure, there’ll be a lot of stereos beating to the sound of Triple J’s Hottest 100. There’ll be a lot of barbeques sizzling with snags and steaks, and tops being twisted off bottles, and corks being popped. There’ll be Australian flags emblazoned on windows and cars and tattooed on the shoulders and backs of the citizens of this country. But what about it should matter?
I’m not sure that I can offer a brilliant, all-inclusive answer. I know that many people baulk at the Australian flag and despise it as a symbol of celebration. That vegetarians don’t really care for Sam Kekovich or his lamb ads. That middle-class Australia loves to point the finger at bogans and tut. That we are not a Republic. That we have a history – a flawed, problematic history. I know all that. And I know many other people do too, and they refer to it, and laugh at it, and bring it up as a means to rip apart all the good things there are about this country, and the people that inhabit it.
And there are so many good things. So many beautiful places, and wonderful, lovely people, and talented artists, and creative ventures, and sporting achievements, and medical geniuses, and innovative educators – so many people so devoted to greatness.
And that it’s the people that tut and vomit opinions that really need to think about Australia Day and its meaning. Because it’s not just another day. It’s a day to celebrate and honour our country.
I’ve always admired Americans for their unabashed love for their country – the way they hold their hand to their heart and honour their flag. Perhaps there is something we can learn from them.
Australia is a young country. One that, might I add, considering its youth, has not only kept up with but surpassed most other countries in the world in most industries. There’s not that many of us and we’re really good at what we do – period.
Australia may have made wrongs, but it has also made many rights.
We may be jovial, and a country of larrikins, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud. It doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful. It doesn’t mean we can’t wave a flag in seriousness.
Our core – of mateship, and loyalty, of humour, and intelligence, of inclusion, and culture – should be a marker of solidarity and celebration – not separation.
The thing I’ve realised is that I may celebrate Australia every day, but not enough other people do. It’s their opinions and generalisations and complete ignorance that hold them back from seeing Australia clearly.
So, to be clear, we live in the best country in the world – one that values so many things that other countries do not, one that is caring and loving, one that is stunning and inspiring, one that we should be proud of. And, most definitely, one that we shouldn’t have to keep defending or defining.
Wave your flag proudly this Australia Day, turn the music up, eat your sausage in bread with sauce, feel the sand beneath your toes, rub red dust off your face, wear your bikini down the street with thongs on your feet, laugh, clink glasses with friends, soak in the views and say thank you; that not only can you do all of that freely, but that you can do it proudly.
Happy Australia Day.