What does Oz Day really mean to you?
Be honest now… do you really do anything special? Anything patriotic? Anything to commemorate the landing of the invaders? Anything to celebrate our maturity as a nation? Yeah right!
Here’s my take on it.
Most Aussies just love public holidays. Canberrans love to go to the coast and this year Oz Day falls on a Friday, so off they’ll go to the sun, surf and skullduggery for a long weekend.
Some will honestly think about our nationhood but I reckon there are few of these types. Of course the media will drive up the hype because bugger-all interesting happens at this time of year. But mostly, people will just enjoy another day off.
Picture the scene. 8.00 am and we’re still in bed because we don’t have to get up and tear off to our place of work. The paper’s been delivered and now it is consumed with coffee and a piece of toast (with nationalism-building Vegemite of course). A scan at the Oz Day Honours list and damn! we’re not in it! Maybe next year. Another quick run through to see who we know who got a gong and then a grumble about people getting gongs for just doing their jobs and hey, did you notice that all the rich guys get the big gongs and the little guys get the OAMs?
The conversation then turns to:
“What’re we gunna do today? We can’t go to the coast cos the traffic’s insane and anyway we should do something as a family.” A BBQ! Yay!
No thoughts as yet about what this means in patriotic terms. No mention yet of consideration of how far we’ve come as a young nation among the global community.
“Hey, whaddya think of this stuff about moving the date?”
“I don’t care, so long as it’s still a public holiday and in the warmer months too.”
“Whaddya think about the notion that it really shouts out that the place was invaded by the Poms in 1788 or so? Whaddya think about the oppression the indigenous folks had to go through?”
“That was ages ago, can’t people just get over it and enjoy the day off?”
“Did ya see that more ex-pollies and Generals got ACs and AOs and some of them senior public circus folks got a few AMs? Did ya see that lady who’s been doing all those charity things for as long as we’ve known her got an OAM? What? Ya didn’t get to that bit in the paper?
“It just shows that it’s not what you know or do, but who you know that counts.”
Flick across town to another suburb and the conversation goes a bit like this.
“What’re we gunna do today? We have a day off. Do you know why that is?”
“Well, from where I’m sitting, it is about acknowledging who we are as a nation. Our pollies strut the global stage but in reality, we’re only minnows. But then again, haven’t we come a long way? And our reputation in science and sport, in tourist destinations and our way of life are the envy of many a country. I reckon we should stop for a while and be thankful to our forebears for creating this great country.”
“Yeah but what about the indigenous issue?”
“I understand that they have grievances, that they are entitled to be bitter about stolen lands and children and that they are entitled to having the truth told about massacres and subjugation. I appreciate that they feel second class citizens in their own land and that is only in recent history that they have been regarded as human beings at all. My problem is that I want to celebrate and mourn at the same time.”
“What do you think about changing the date?”
“I think it is top idea. We should celebrate the contribution the indigenous folks made before and after 1788 and we should have Day of the Indigenous Peoples and that we should celebrate our nationhood on a day which is associated with the creation of us as a nation.”
“Great, but we came into existence on January the first, 1901 and we have a holiday on New Year’s Day already.”
“Sure, but there are other days we can declare. Like the date the legislation received Royal Assent, like the date the first Parliament sat in Melbourne, like the date we severed most of our ties with the British crown (the removal of the perk of Privy Councillors is an example). There’s got to be any number of days we can have besides the day the invaders turned up.”
“Mmm, not bad. Did you know that the Parliament can do this with the stroke of a pen and we don’t need a referendum or plebiscite to do it? And did you know that there are not so many indigenous leaders that it would be a hassle to gather them together and get a date set for Indigenous recognition?”
“No, I didn’t know that. Why won’t they just do it and stop all the angst?”
“I don’t know but whatever happens, it would probably mean two public holidays instead of one. I can also see big business saying Nuh! Where can you get a brave pollie when you need one?”
“They’re all having the day off!”