Australia Day: I like it

I have usually marked Australia Day with a post or more: 2016: Australia Day at Mount KemblaHow inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address — he’s now a strong possibility for Australian of the Year 2017; 2014: Anniversary Day/Survival Day, from which:

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

And an earlier post on both:

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

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.

I find myself vexed by those who would have me burn the Australian flag, as some on the left have proposed, including those who regard the current Australian political system as not merely imperfect but as illegitimate, government by “terra nullians” some say, but I am also vexed — more so perhaps — by the self-styled patriots for whom cultural diversity is anathema.

So I wish you all — or those concerned — a happy but reflective Australia Day. By the way, i have just realised that in five years time my paternal line will have its very own bicentennial, Jacob Whitfield having arrived in Sydney in 1822! My brother’s family go back to way beyond that, as he married (without then knowing it) into the family of Bungaree. See Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield.

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