I have umm and ahh’d about writing this blog all morning… but I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, so I have decided to stop and put my thoughts down on virtual paper… Over the last 5 years my thoughts on Australia Day have started to shift and as I sit here and write this, I am feeling really uncomfortable with what today, Australia Day, represents.
5 years ago I wrote a blog called ‘3 Reasons I love this Sunburnt Country‘ and reading it back today has made me cringe… In the blog the only thing that upset me about Australia Day was the assumption that copious amounts of alcohol had to be consumed in order to truly celebrate. Today, there are lots of things that upset be about the day… and ironically, I hadn’t even thought about the alcohol that will be consumed until I read the blog back. I still love this Sunburnt Country and the reasons I gave in the blog still ring true, I just feel like they are now much less important.
My love for my country is also something I have had to wrestle with, and it is something that I have continued to write about, particularly over the past 12 months. I have longed for our history to be different, to be able to start again and I have learned just a fraction of how truly unique and wonderful our long heritage is and that it should be savoured and treasured. I want to be able to celebrate all things Australian, but I no longer feel like I can just blindly buy into the celebrations of the day without the darkness it also represents being felt.
Today my social media and news feeds are flooded with 2 things… both about the same issue… but not at all the same. Half are what I would call ‘traditional’ Australia day posts… pictures of BBQs, flags, hottest 100 votes and general celebration of what it means to be Australian in 2017. There were even some fairy bread lamingtons… what’s more Australian than that? But the other half are calls to change the date of Australia Day, acknowledgements of the dreadful events of January 26 in years gone by and attempts to respectfully acknowledge the pain and suffering many Indigenous people feel on this day, which many of them consider a day of mourning.
So how do I as a ‘privileged white Australian’ work through this… I love a good public holiday and I would hate to see this one disappear, but I think we do need to seriously stop and consider celebrating being Australian on another day of the year. I have watched a number of videos suggesting all kinds of dates and I have been surprised to learn how little history the date, the 26th of January, as a nationally recognised and celebrated holiday has. I am not a miserable person who should crawl under a rock as some of our politicians might think, I am just one Australian who doesn’t think it is too much to ask, to have a national day that truly unites us, rather than one that continues to divide us and hurt so many. I am not just trying to be politically correct, I am just trying to be human, compassionate, understanding and hopeful of reconciliation for all. I don’t think this push to change the date should just go away, as I am beginning to think that many people would want. It is not something we shouldn’t expect any one to just ‘get over’ and while it is certainly not a part of our history that we should forget, it is also not a day of national celebration. I think it is time to stop and consider it. If we can start a new public holiday for a football parade which benefits no one but the economy, surely we can alter one to bring people together.
Today I am uncomfortable, because I still want things to be different. I want to be able to celebrate all of Australia, I want to be ok with being a white Australian, because I can live in harmony with all of those who also call this great land their own. I also want to be able celebrate on a day where the Bunurong peoples who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I live can also celebrate because they are not reminded of the pain and suffering that has been brought to their people over the last 200 years. I want to be able to feel comfortable and confident in the fact that we are moving forward together. I want unity, harmony and peace… and if changing a date, shifting some celebration is what needs to happen to do that, then I support it.
I am proud to be an Australian, I am proud of where we have come from and mostly who we are becoming… (we still have a lot of things to work on) and I want to be able to celebrate with everyone… not just the selected few… who also happen to be the powerful majority. It’s time to stand together and celebrate who we are…
Here’s to a less uncomfortable Australia Day in the future.