Thursday, 26 January 2023

Australia to me is more than just my home.

She represents reward for hard work, national pride, safety and peace.

Seeing the Australian flag flying over a Cenotaph at an Anzac Day Dawn Service is a source of immense pride and emotion.

So does driving through the Outback and staring up at the night sky that inspired the Dreamtime of Australia’s first inhabitants, and that’s still a source of wonder today.

Similarly, beaches and parks packed with families of all colours and creeds, eating, drinking, wearing the flag and displaying the Boxing Kangaroo really encapsulates the true spirit or Australia Day.

Our story is one of Aboriginal Australia, of British arrival and immigration.

Our anthem mentions “boundless plains to share” – we have certainly done that, and it will continue with more than 200,000 new arrivals due this year.

We have also become a haven for refugees, showing that we are a welcoming country, true to those words in the anthem.

And these new arrivals want to know about our national identity: I say Australia represents mateship, sporting prowess, overcoming the odds, and irreverent humour.

She is a triumph of human ingenuity, determination and courage. An example of how the tyranny of distance was not an obstacle, but a challenge to overcome.

I think of how Qantas had its beginnings with two men and a broken-down car near Cloncurry, and how this then allowed the Flying Doctor to come into existence, saving countless lives that would have otherwise been lost.

I ponder the terrible hardships experienced by our early pioneers – many from overseas – scratching a living and birthing children in unimaginable circumstances.

I think of the Anzacs, Gallipoli, France, the charge of the Light Horse, Kokoda, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

We have vast wilderness, rainforests, reefs and beaches that are the envy of the world.

We have a stable government, our farmers are considered by many to be the world’s best, and we are enriched by resources we export around the world.

Australia is also free. So free, in fact, that you can choose not to celebrate our national day. You can even burn the flag our ancestors fought under and to which so many have pledged allegiance.

Stores can choose not to stock Australia Day merchandise, pubs can refuse to host Australia Day celebrations and businesses can allow employees to work and take a different day off.

Councils can choose not to host citizenship ceremonies that day, and Melbourne can cancel its Australia Day parade.

It’s sad to see and it is rightly condemned, but – to quote an infamous Aussie – such is life.

We have a lot to be proud of and I refuse to buy into the narrative some are peddling that “we are at war” with Aboriginal Australians.

No matter the date, Australia should be celebrated for the modern, inclusive, beautiful success story it has become after a group of Brits who didn’t want to be here somehow made a go of it.

Australia Day is also an anniversary for the millions of Australians who have immigrated here for a better life and were awarded citizenship on this day.