Every year for the past 3 years I have spent my Australia Day running the event called the ‘Havaianas Thong Challenge.’ At the time managing this event was amazing, hello I was the event manager for one of the coolest branded events going around. This year however, I no longer work for that agency and I was able to actually join in and embrace the crazy festivities and the genuinely fun day that is Australia Day.
Prior to this year all that Australia Day meant to me was ‘beach, havaianas and maybe the top 10 of the hottest 100 with a few beers at the end of the event.’ The entire weeks leading up to the event were stressful and consumed by only thoughts of the well know ‘havaianas’ thong brand, as were the weeks after. I was totally ignorant to the fact that the media have a frenzy with creating the perception that Australia Day means; lamingtons, vegemite, thongs and VB or XXXX beer. This year I was blessed to be able to fully absorb myself in Australia Day. I can’t believe I actually missed out on this for so long, for some reason I thought making money for a non-Australian owned brand that has somehow just become quintessential Australia was the be all and end all of Australia Day. How did havaianas become so ‘Australianised’ anyway? Ok I’m on a tangent; this was not the purpose of my post, maybe something I will address at a later date…
So, Tuesday night I am bursting with excitement and head to my parents for a roast lamb dinner with bottle of wine in hand. I am trying to flick my addiction with Facebook but the curiosity of what everyone else is doing on this public holiday eve (apparently now labeled “Summer Stone Fruit Day” ) got the better of me. My sister posts an update with some brief history on Australia Day, at which point I realise I actually know absolutely nothing about Australia Day.
I am a born and bred an Australian citizen, I completed high school at a catholic college plus 4 years of university, I drink XXXX, I fly Qantas, I love a good BBQ, hell I wear havaianas more than I wear any other shoe and I float on my Australian Flag branded inflatable thong almost every weekend in summer so how the hell do I not know what the Australia Day holiday stands for? I am known for asking (for want of a better word) ‘dumb’ questions and often get strange looks in response to the stupid questions I ask, but surely I am not the only person to not know what Australia Day truly stands for? If I am then forgive me and sheesh I feel really silly, regardless, this uncertainty of my heritage drove me to actually investigate and listen to the media frenzy that is Australia Day. Almost the whole country is given a day of work and clearly not just so we can drink piss in the sun clad with the green and gold, or blue and red, so what is so important to warrant this behaviour? My first step was to look up what Australia Day is supposed to remind us of for other than sun, beers, BBQ’s and debauchery. So here it is just in case I am not alone in my ignorance to the history of my very existence (thank god for Google!)
AUSTRALIA DAY – as put by the official website www.australiaday.org,au
Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788 (to read a comprehensive history of the evolution of Australia Day, click here).
Though 26 January marks this specific event, today Australia Day celebrations reflect contemporary Australia: our diverse society and landscape, our remarkable achievements and our bright future. It also is an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history, and to consider how we can make Australia an even better place in future.
On Australia Day, over half of the nation’s population of 21 million attend either an organised community event, or get together with family and friends with the intention of celebrating our national day. Many more spend the public holiday relaxing with family and friends.
Ok great! So I went on to read the comprehensive history of the evolution of Australia Day and instantly I now have knowledge of my history. I just can’t believe it took me 24 years, aren’t schools supposed to teach you this stuff? Or did they and I have just forgotten? I don’t remember ever having to draw pictures or do a project on this, did I Mum?
So now that is all cleared up I felt I actually had grounds to form my own opinions on the talk back topics that were all over the morning TV & radio shows this week.
Lamingtons, ANZAC biscuits, vegemite, lamb, beers, BBQ’s, zinc, and (somehow) havaianas all are iconic Australian and that is wonderful and it’s great that we reflect on them on Australia Day but what happened to damper, moonshine and tribal aboriginal dances? I wonder how these fell off the Australia Day ‘Australian symbols’ bandwagon? You know what really stood out to me though this week, the ‘change the flag’ debate. Why is it that on the one day a year when almost every person on our amazing land wears some form of the Australian Flag (I presume to subconsciously celebrate how fucking lucky we are to live in such a free and magnificent country) the topic of changing that very flag is raised?
Now this is a topic I am tremendously undereducated on and therefore am reluctant to form a closed shop opinion on just yet but here is where my opinion is at in infant stage. Obviously (and supported by the record of history on Google) the flag symbolises the people and the events that have allowed us to become this amazing country that our global neighbours are in awe of. The majority of the country, particularly on this day, couldn’t be prouder to drape themselves in the country’s ‘logo’, if you will, so why should we change it?
Then there is the part of me that is responding to the other major topic in the media, our land’s native children, the aboriginals. Now this is a topic I am even more undereducated on and I endeavour to fill my brain with information on. But from what I know they were here before the Brits right? They bred over 500,000 children before the Britain’s colonized in Australia and were not allowed to vote. As history would have it we have recognised them as Australian’s, allowed them to vote and said ‘sorry.’
Personally as a white post 1980’s Australian citizen I take pride in the Australian flag and think the Union Jack is a great way to remind us, and future generations, oh how we became the country we are now. If we change the flag now and in 40 years’ time there are young adults, just like me, who for whatever reason don’t know their history and the flag is different, will they ever be driven to research their own history, or will it just be forgotten?
However I wonder if, for Aboriginal Australian’s, our flag and it’s Union Jack symbol is just a constant reminder of how their ancestors were treated when Britain colonized, discovered, (invaded if you like) their country? Does our flag ignite inner anger and sadness in them not too dissimilar to that of what the nazi flag might ignite in the German’s? Now I know that is an extreme correlation and it is not by any means my opinion, it is simply an extreme question I asked myself when trying to stand on the other side of the fence.
Perhaps if we treated the Aboriginals as equal and recognised them as more than a distant memory of history we just can’t erase, more than a tourist attraction in the hope that we can convince international visitors that we really do have culture, just maybe they would become a part of modern Australian society rather than the unfortunate stereotype of drunken lazy ancestors that we can’t eradicate?
So should we change the flag? Well it’s not something that I would vote for but gee what a debate there is to be had (and I have only considered just 2 viewpoints).
Yes I need much more education on this topic, and maybe next Australia Day I will be armed to write a post on how much my infant stage opinion has grown and changed, maybe by that stage I will be educated enough to have an opinion that puts me on one side of the fence rather than sitting on the fence.
But right now my opinion is the changing of the flag debate should NOT be made on Australia Day; pick another time of the year to rally the pollies, perhaps around election time? But not on the day that we drape ourselves in the pride that the flag currently resembles because whether anyone likes it or not it is our national flag and if you can’t take just one day out of your year to love the country we live in then I feel terribly sorry for you.
This year I created a personal meaning of Australia Day, I ate vegemite, I supported my friends businesses, I drank Australian beer, I basked in our wonderful ocean with a huge amount of friends from all walks of life and I now, thank- goodness, have a deeper understanding and appreciation of Australian history.