I reckon this year’s Oz Day brought more commentary and diverse opinion than any other, at least in my awareness.
We had heavy discussion and demos around the indigenous people’s issue with this particular day. Some calling it Invasion Day and others getting upset because the first peoples were conquered and they had just better get over it and move on.
Some suggested that to respect the invasion theory and the denunciation of the terra nullius theory, we should move the date. Perhaps to February 7th or some other day which has more to do with the proclamation of the settlement in the name of Mad King George (King George IV, for those in the monarchist camp).
Some say 1st January cos that’s when we came into being as a nation instead of a number of colonies. But we get that day off anyway!
I heard a great reason to change the date just yesterday. The idea is that where a particular date has a negative connotation for whatever reason, that date should be avoided. Instead, any other date will do. Just as HM the Queen’s actual birthday is in April we still celebrate (or for others who say, don’t like the Queen but like the holiday) her official birthday in June. Weird.
We also had much discussion about asylum seekers and how the Trumpster is going to derail the deal to take our 1200 prisoners from Manus Island and Nauru in exchange for asylum seekers in Cost Rica. But the essence of this discussion is disturbing.
It goes like this. You can’t come to Oz if you have travelled from your country of persecution through a third or more countries and arrive by leaky boat. But we can ship you off to some other countries like Cambodia in exchange for aid to Cambodia or the US in exchange for refugees in Costa Rica. But not to New Zealand who didn’t put any strings on the transfer.
But hang on! Didn’t the refugees in Costa Rica go across the seas through a third country only to be imprisoned for seeking refugee status? I don’t get the difference, unless it is Islamophobia, which may explain the Trumpster’s reluctance to have our refugees.
So we have these far-right groups getting upset at the electronic billboard at the Canberra Theatre because the Aussies depicted are wearing hijabs. And they threatened to burn the place down. With such violent thoughts aren’t they being a bit hypocritical in suggesting that Muslims are all terrorists?
But when you look at Oz Day, apart from the Aussie of the Year knees up, what is the most significant ceremony across the nation? Citizenship ceremonies. Hello! We welcome people from across the lands who become new citizens and bring such richness and colour, cuisine and culture to our already polyglot nation.
I used to have the honour of bestowing citizenship, when I was Minister for Multicultural Affairs and it was the best job in all my 15 years as a pollie. Let me tell you that Anglo names were generally in the minority. We had Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Maori, Swedish, Russian, Italian, German, Chilean, Peruvian, Brazilian, Argentine, Somali, Kenyan, Ghanaian, Indonesian, Malaysian, with a smattering of Poms, Irish and Yanks. Oh… the occasional Canadian as well. I haven’t covered them all but you get the gist.
Back to the Aussie of the Year knees up, did you see that an AC went to that Welsh immigrant, Julia Gillard, and that that Scottish screamer Jimmy Barnes got a gong. I always check the list to see who I know got a gong. Like Paul Walshe, a great bloke and a generous one too. Great family of givers not takers and most deserved!
So, when I looked at this year’s list, I noticed the number of non-Anglo names. People who made Oz their home either because they were refugees from persecution (or their parents were) or poverty (and many of us hit that bell). They have all contributed to making Oz a better place than they found it. Yeah well this is just the start of a theme.
How about these names for leadership in Oz? Anastasia Palaszczuk (Premier of Qld), Gladys Berejiklian (Premier of NSW), Hieu Van Le (Governor SA), Lia Finnocchiario (NT Parliament), Nazih Elasmar (Vic Parliament), Antonio Krsticevic (WA Parliament), Michelle O’Byrne (Tas Parliament), and even Elizabeth Lee, Steve Doszpot, Elizabeth Kikkert, Michael Petterssen from our own ACT Legislative Assembly.
Even that anti-hero Tony Abbott was born in the UK.
But also recognise that we have indigenous members of parliament and ministries, so the Anglos don’t have a mortgage on good governance. We had Chris Bourke, fed Labor has Linda Burney and the fed Libs have Ken Wyatt. The NT has had a lot of indigenous ministers in the past.
So, I guess my plea is to celebrate the diversity of our peoples, recognise and honour the first peoples, accept that nasty things were done to them by our political forebears and encourage our kids to see the inner person not the outer skin colour or the religious garb.
And back to the asylum seekers for a minute, the duplicity and hypocrisy is gobsmacking! All for the sake of 1200 souls who had the temerity of asking us for help. It is not unlawful to seek asylum but it is unlawful to imprison people who haven’t committed a crime. The Chief Justice of the PNG Supreme Court ordered the camp on Manus Island to close. The Oz gumment says, Oh! OK! And has done nothing since. Three years in a prison for trying to seek a safe life, free from persecution and death! What crime do you need to commit to get three years (and counting) in an Oz jail?
But anyway… On the date of Oz Day… There is a day where only the good happened. 22nd August! The birthday of my darling wife, who was born in Canberra Hospital of an English migrant mother and who had the good sense to marry a migrant, who came to Oz in a boat.