22 January 2018

Oz day - just another day off!

| John Hargreaves
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Australia Day

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!”

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You forgot to mention its the anniversary of the 1808 rum rebellion – the only time in Australian history that a government was overthrown by a military coup, and something we could probably all support and get behind given the current lineup of pollies.


When we were a bit younger Johnno the Holiday was the last Monday in January. I started work on Tuesday, the day after the Australia Day Holiday looong ago. It was the end of summer. It was to go “down the Coast” and pick up the family from the caravan. Some politician changed it in the 1990s. Canberra Day is the Second Monday in March. Queens Birthday is the second Monday in June. Happy to accept 26/1 as Australia Day, but can we please have the Holiday back where it belongs ? By the way, next year 26/1 is Saturday, and the Monday has already been decided as the holiday. In 2020, it is the Sunday and it will not surprise you that the Monday is the holiday…And if 2020 were not a Leap Year 2021 it would be on the Monday that year. I leave it to you.

John your post is not all that different to what you did 12 months ago. In fact most of your posts show you are not all that happy as an immigrant in being here. I’d say this is best shown in your reply in your Dual Citizenship ramble, where you replied to a reply about the strife that Barnaby Joyce found himself in, by replying to a note from a Rioter who said “there is no-one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce” where you came back by saying “Pat Dobson and Linda Burney may have an issue with that one.””

So you are inferring that you are not to call yourself an Aussie unless you are of Indigenous background.

So John you may be happier back home in England where as an indigenous person you can really rail against those people in England , who although born in the country , their family came from another country. Perhaps there are some others who have your feelings.

You are making a bit of an assumption there.

John may be Anglo Saxon and thus a member of a group who invaded the British Isles and oppressed the indigenous peoples.

If so, perhaps Germany would be a better destination for John.

The Fathers of Federation really stuffed up when they chose January 1 to declare the Commonwealth of Australia. They could have picked pretty well any other day of the year and it would have become the natural date to celebrate.

Capital Retro10:27 am 23 Jan 18

With someone raising the notion that Australia was invaded by quoting a definition without source reference perhaps it is opportune to clarify a few other facts about what happened in 1788.
The First Fleet contained the convicts and marines that are acknowledged as the “Founders of Australia.

Cook (he was Lieutenant Cook at the time) discovered the east coast of New Holland in 1770 and named it New South Wales. With Cook reporting that the whole east coast of New Holland was suitable for settlement and Britain did not recognise the country as being inhabited as the natives did not cultivate the land and were therefore “uncivilised” which was a reasonable conclusion to make at that time.

Social upheaval in Britain at the time created a crime wave and convicts could no longer be sent to America following the American Revolution so this necessitated the creation of a penal colony in New South Wales so the convicts could be transported.

The First Fleet comprised of 9 hired ships and 2 naval vessels (hardly an invasion force). There were 759 convicts and 550 officers/marines/ship crew and their families.

The fleet arrived in Botany Bay between the 18th and 20th January 1788 but the area was deemed unsuitable mainly as it lacked sufficient fresh water for settlement so they moved north arriving at Port Jackson on the 26th January 1788.

Many people forget the convicts. The utter hell they went through for stealing a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes by being dirt poor in Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland where there were no opportunities unless born into it. Then they arrived in this inhospitable land.

I think many young people don’t know of our convict past, or glamorise minor bits of it. The hellish conditions of being chained while carving sandstone to build things, the female factories of torture, whippings and abuse, the hunger and the short life.

Australia Day is about remembering the pain and suffering that many many people were forced to go through, from wherever they were from, to build this country into what it is today. Many descendants of convicts were still living with dirt floors in the 1940’s – then they had to go to war for a country expelled their forebears to this country in the 1700 and 1800’s. But we’ve moved on. The convict past is there, but we don’t dwell on it and many newer arrivals to Australia don’t even know of it.

For me its recognising just how far this country has matured in such a short period of time. The growing pains it has suffered and the lessons learned.

If we keep dwelling on the bad things in the past and don’t move on, we condemn our future.

Australia Day is about celebrating that there is a future for everyone now and for the next generations. Its not about being morbidly stuck in the past and not moving on. Its about celebrating our place in the world and what the future could be, with friends, a beer, a sausage or whatever you prefer.

And its the final day off before the summer holidays are over!

Capital Retro10:09 am 24 Jan 18

Well said Craig.

The National Museum of Australia could perhaps review its over-weighted contribution to the history of Australia before British colonisation and focus more on the convict era. I think this is more relevant to the majority of Australians.

John Hargreaves7:44 am 23 Jan 18

I love the idea of an Oz Republic Day! How about the first Monday of February each year starting in 2019?

A roadblock we have to clamber over before the business end of the year begins. The summer manana society and silly season ends this weekend. On Monday our 80% country fires up and is back to 100% again.

What about the PM”s idea – become a republic and then celebrate that? I’ve no interest in celebrating the founding of the first Australian colony or the first Australian penal settlement.

Capital Retro7:25 pm 22 Jan 18

Without the founding of the first Australian colony and developments since then you and Turnbull wouldn’t even be able to speculate about a republic that few people want.

Personally I reckon there’s a hierarchy of public holidays. It goes ANZAC Day (the most meaningful), Australia Day (some meaning), then the rest (no meaning at all).

I could go either way on changing the date. I’m not wedded to January 26 but at the same time we’ll never reach complete consensus.

MEH. I am in the first camp.

It has to be in the warmer months. I say January 21st when the Brits formally took possession of WA at Albany. Perfect time for a BBQ.

Interest article today that said if at Mabo the HC had decided that Australua under UN law had been invaded, then there would be no land rights compensation.

Capital Retro10:02 am 22 Jan 18

Australia Day discriminates against retired people as we no longer get public holidays. We should be compensated for this.

I agree with all you have said. Few people are interested in who gets awards etc. and I guarantee if you ran a phone poll only 1 person in 10 would know who the current Australian of the Year is.

I am a Rabbit™3:03 pm 22 Jan 18

Are you being serious about the compensation comment? I suppose this is an example of Poe’s law though…

Capital Retro8:26 am 23 Jan 18

I wasn’t serious about compensation but after recalling some of the incredible amounts the ACT government has paid in compensation for land acquisitions I don’t see why not.

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