Anniversary Day/Survival Day

Let me preface this with Jim Belshaw this morning

Today is Australia Day. I really don’t want to write about it. Three threads come across my various streams: those who call it invasion day and do things like burning the constitution as a symbolic act; those who treat it as a somewhat jingoistic national celebration; and those who just want to party. I suppose I’m with the latter!

However I have been leading up to today quite deliberately.

And then on my mother’s side of the family:

And an earlier post on both:

As a kind of summary:

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All these stories even within my own family history harmonise with Australian of the Year Adam Goodes’ ambivalence about the day:

Yet despite Goodes’ pride at receiving the award, January 26 brings a tumult of emotion for the 34-year-old Sydney Swans star, dual Brownlow medallist, revered figure in indigenous and footy communities and national inspiration.

He says he finds it hard to buy into a celebratory notion of Australia Day ”because of the sadness and mourning and the sorrow of our people and a culture that unfortunately has been lost to me through generations”.

Goodes grew up believing Australia was founded on a summer’s day in January 1788 when Governor Arthur Phillip staked the flag of the British kingdom in the sand of Sydney Cove.

”I’ve obviously learnt different since then,” he says.

Nevertheless, he finds cause for optimism. ”We are still here, we’ve got a lot to celebrate about being here and that we have one of the longest-serving cultures still alive and kicking.’…

He does not judge flag-waving, beer-swilling celebrations taking place elsewhere. ”Good luck to them,” he says. ”That’s what I love about Australia: we can do things the way we want to do them, because that’s the way our country is – no matter what culture you come from, you can come to Australia and practise your religion, you can practise your beliefs, and you shouldn’t be judged for it. That’s what I love about Australia, we have this freedom.”…

Keep in mind ABC 1 on 30 January:

88” is a landmark documentary that explores the remarkable events that led up to January 26th 1988. The Bicentennial of the First Fleet was a watershed moment in Australian history and it triggered the largest gathering of Indigenous people this country has ever seen, who came together to tell their story. The protest that occurred on that day instigated mass public debate about the concept of Australian history, the position of Aboriginal people in contemporary society and their sheer determination to be heard.

The subsequent events of 1988 changed white and black Australia forever. They led to the establishment of numerous peak Indigenous organisations, a new generation of leaders, new attitudes towards the way we celebrate Australia Day and a realisation of the issues facing Aboriginal people in the present day. For the first time ever, Indigenous people became part of the wider dialogue and there was acknowledgment that January 26th had a very different resonance for the country’s Indigenous communities. A line had indeed, been drawn in the sand.

I was there that day and joined all these people in their march. 26 years ago on the 26th!

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26 January 1988 – image by the great Michael Riley

See also Paul Newbury: My family connection to Aboriginal genocide.

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But none of us are going anywhere, are we?

There may be a time in the future when we have an opportunity to forge a new national day, free of the ambivalence that accompanies Australia Day. But for now, January 26 is it. Let’s use it as an occasion to celebrate our achievements and reflect on the things that we share as Australians.

Let’s also use it to ask whether our country is living up to the best of its traditions. In the words of one patriot, ”My country, right or wrong: if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

See also my 2012 post  There is a land where summer skies…  Some earlier Australia Day posts: 2007; 2008 – 1; 2008 – 2; 2009 – 1; 2009: 2; 2009 – 3; 2010; 2011 – 1; 2011 – 2; 2011 – 3; 2011 – 4; 2011 – 5; 2011 – 6; 2011 – 7; the page series Being Australian; 2012 photo blog; 2013 – 1; 2013 — 2.

Finally, a feel-good story: One-hundred-year-old Iraqi woman Aziza Rawaini looking forward to new life as Australian citizen. Good on her!