A friend posted a link to a blog on FB on Australia Day. For some it’s Invasion Day, or Isolation day. Blog like the one written by Rachael Hocking I find troubling. For the simple reason, despite my love of Australia, it strikes a sour chord in my heart.
Despite calling Australia home – where my roots are – I my curent home is London, the birthplace of my parents – you could say my ancestral home. As much as I rejoice when our cricket team claim back the Ashes, or despairing at another our Wallabies receiving another beating by the All Blacks there is a thread of disassociation from the hype and jingoism that comes with Australia day. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegemite, inviting friends round for a barbie, and I enjoy the benefits of being an Aussie.
But there is something about the ‘lucky country’ that is only lucky for some. We overlook much of our history when it comes to the genocide of aboriginals (we succeeded in Tasmania), the removal of their children (only recently apologised for by Government), failure to acknowledge them as humans worthy of rights (the British rule of law – Terra Nullius – had much to answer for). And that’s what I find troubling that many Australians are ignorant of these facts or choose to ignore them.
And I worry that my views may isolate me from many friends but some of them come from mixed or distant lands themselves. I went to primary school with kids from Spain, Italy and Yugoslavia – all who initially couldn’t speak much or any English. One became a good mate who I ended up going to High School with where we were joined by kids with Ukraine, Philippino or Russian blood or birthplaces. For me they were just kids at school with interesting names and sometimes rather odd lunches.
And yet this was an Australia where many of my school mates and their families would be labelled ‘wogs’. At times it did seem as though our immigrant nation preferred only certain types of migrants. And yet that’s what makes the country so special – the talent, the ambition, the differences.
Many could recall Cathy Freeman’s gold winning run in the Sydney Olympics. They loved her for giving Australia that kudos. But I for one was proud of her breaking with Olympic guidelines and making a political statement about her birthright as an aboriginal Australian, as well as her place as representative of the Australian nation.
So, how do you celebrate a national day that includes the original inhabitants, the original European migrants in the First Fleet and the ships that followed, and all subsequent immigrants from a shrinking globe? It’s not easy. Many Australians don’t like the fact that Australia Day is either being hijacked as Invasion Day, or demeaned as something bad. And I do understand their sentiment. They’ve grown up celebrating it and their history. But a new more honest history challenges that view – and better understanding, respect and unity is required. How you achieve that, I haven’t a clue. I’ll let you know when I find out.