In the lead-up to Australia Day, Indigenous author Anita Heiss’s published a post on Facebook about how she feels about Australia Day. Here is an excerpt from her post.
At its heart and in so many ways this is a wonderful landscape to live within. In every community, city and town I visit I am enriched learning about and from the original storytellers of Australia. But our country has debilitating elements of xenophobia and a racist underbelly that needs to be addressed, and these are compounded when a national day like January 26 completely dismisses the truth of how Australia was founded, rendering Aboriginal people as invisible, non-existent, not only back then but right now in 2017.
But my hope for the future is that 2018 presents all Australians with a greater understanding of our shared history, a new date, a new opportunity for us all to celebrate with national pride, and yes, where we can all enjoy a public holiday with meaning and maybe even a lamb snag too!
You can read the full article here: https://anitaheiss.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/why-ill-be-working-on-january-26/
I am a big fan of Anita’s and she has been one of this country’s star writers. She has carried the flag for Indigenous literature for a long time now, but I was thinking (as I was reading it), about the divisiveness surrounding this day every year. Apart from the Indigenous question, the latest this year was the controversy around the billboard of the two young Muslim Aussie girls celebrating the day, holding Aussie flags. Even the Canberra Theatre had issues (threats) regarding this poster.
So I thought I’d take a survey amongst my friends and acquaintances in Canberra to see what this day meant to them.
You can have your say, too, in our poll and in the comments below.
Here are some of my findings. Most people, it seems to me, think of it as a long weekend holiday, and said they didn’t give much thought to it at all. But there were different responses from our citizens who originally came from overseas.
See a selection of some of these holiday focused comments below:
“Great day for a barbecue. We always celebrate with a big barbecue with all of our friends and then we go to the coast for the days around it. We drink lots of beer. Great weekend. So for me, it’s about celebrating the end of the holidays.” – Jurgo
“Good times (ie cold beer, friends, family, generally relaxing, without problems in life in Australia). Isn’t that what we fought for? Or is it life in general in Aus? I’m going with relaxing with no problema!!” – Piker
“A day to celebrate the good life with family and friends.” – Irene
“Australia Day gives me the chance to reflect on what a beautiful place I live in and how appreciative I am to be here.” – Rochelle
“I like to go to Sydney to celebrate, as January is the best month for visiting, due to their month-long festival and I love to be near the water in the heat of Summer, in any case. So for me, it means a weekend away.” – Ashleigh
“Simple. The tennis.” – Sally
“It’s a great time to go to the coast and celebrate the long weekend. Not that much into the deep and meaningful of it all – don’t care about the hype of Australian of the Year awards either. Not into patriotism. It’s a thing of the past and should stay in the past. It causes wars. Better to focus on the snags on the barbie.” – JJ
And some of the ones focusing on the controversial aspect:
“Controversy.” – Tristan
“It’s a reminder that the English set up a prison camp in someone else’s country and then set about murdering the original inhabitants. It’s a reminder that we have no treaty with Indigenous tribes and have, at no point since 1788, treated Aboriginal people as equals. Australia Day reminds me of our cruel past and if it were presented as a memorial and not a celebration this could be a good thing.” – Judith
“To me, it means great pride in all the wonderful aspects of our country, but also terror, where ungrateful and insensitive leaders (and some citizens) are plunging many of us into despair. I’m always very keen to celebrate the wonder that is Australia. Hopefully. this celebration and valuing lifts us to greater heights and positive emotions.” – Michael
“It means not being able to celebrate as I would like because the date is inappropriate, insensitive and disrespectful.” – Michael
And finally, from some Aussies who originated from other countries and settled here:
“Australian Day is a reminder for us to bond as a multicultural nation. Be tolerant, inclusive and positive this year.” – Penny (originally from China)
“I remember on this day about how I got citizenship – it was the nicest memory. Very special for me and my family. We had come a long way and went through much to get here, but becoming an Aussie was one of the happiest days of my life.” – Bao (refugee)
My own father (a Hungarian refugee), always felt this day was special too – and he reminded us that we were so lucky to live in such a democracy and to have the freedom we have, in this “land of possibilities”, as he put it.
It seems from my simple poll that there are indeed a plethora of views here and that in some ways it is divisive. Nevertheless, there are also many who have come from other lands, who perhaps appreciate this day more than those born here. But I may be wrong.
What does Australia Day mean for you? Do you think we should change the date? What would you like to see happen on this day?