Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Invasion Day

It's Australia Day today.

Let me tell you about it.

Australia Day is when people have barbecues, eat baby sheep (because apparently it's "un-Australian" not to), flock to the beach and temporary tattoos are given out in the local papers to be pasted on children's cheeks.

Australia Day is a manufactured day that marks the day that white people came here and dispossessed, oppressed and murdered in large numbers the Indigenous peoples that had lived here for 40,000 years. 

Seems a twisted day to "celebrate" does it not? This is why we choose not to celebrate.

Any time we have an occasion that encourages national pride a really rather ugly side of Australia comes out. It happens on ANZAC Day, during any international sporting event and Australia Day. Xenophobic Australians drape themselves and their cars in flags and drink lots of beer and generally act like meat-heads. (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Oi Oi Oi). This is apparently patriotism.

Why is this?

I think that one of the problems is that nationalism has been usurped by people who wear T-Shirts with slogans like, "Speak English or Piss Off" and the rest of us shrink from patriotism. 

We feel the cultural cringe when a cartoonish version of ourselves is flaunted to the world. The brainless "G'Day Mate" blokes who sound like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin. We are confused that sporting heroes are given more cultural recognition and status than pioneering Australian scientists, thinkers and humanitarians. We are perplexed as to why we still have a flag with the flag of another country in it's corner and why we don't have a constitution that recognises Aboriginal people and protects all of our civil rights. We feel the inappropriateness of fostering a singular national pride in a country of  immigrants and in a world where national distinctions are broken down by multi-cultural cyberspace communities based on commonality not division.  

And most of all we feel enormous sorrow and shame of our past and continued treatment of Indigenous Australians, immigrants and asylum seekers.

There are times I have felt swelled with pride at being an Australian, it's when we've been brave. When we finally had the cathartic "Sorry Day" to apologise to Aboriginal people for past wrongs. When we brought in tough legislation to control gun ownership. When we elected a woman who chooses to be single, atheist and childless as our prime minister. 

 If we one day: became a Republic, changed our flag and paid scientists more than footballers, I would happily celebrate that positive day.


  1. A very thought-provoking post! I'm admittedly ignorant about Australian history, although the white-man-screwed-the-native-people story is sadly universal, including here in Canada. (And we in turn cringe when painted as hockey-playing mounties, buried in snow, eh?)

    Celebrate those things that fill you with pride, and I hope that one day you will see the country you dream of.

  2. I went to work today and cleaned out my classroom because it was a day of no significance to me too. I also dislike 'celebrating' ANZAC day but have made myself VERY unpopular by expressing my anti war sentiments, and admonished for not feeling thanks and gratitude for those men who fight for our way of life (or the right to defend the english crown or get control of oil rich land). I have been cringing at the SBS ad for australia day that says "we take our sport more seriously than we take ourselves" And when did sport thugs become heros!!!! I really don't get that. I'm not looking forward to school where we have to sing the national anthem because it is such a hypocritical song, I don't sing it.
    I think it is such a strange thing to be proud of being a citizen of a country, well especially me because I did nothing to be australian I didn't make any choices about it, it was a pure accident of my birth. I feel fortunate to be australian in many ways because we can have this discussion freely, I can leave my husband and live, work and buy a house as a single woman, I was supported with social security benefits in the beginning until I found my feet, we are a lucky country in many ways but there are elements of our culture that make me embarrassed!
    I think I will have stir fried veggies and tofu, or maybe pizza or something equally as australian for tea tonight

  3. Bravo, Anki. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've said. I cringe to see boneheads cutting laps with Australian flags hanging from every part of their car, just because some Chinese factory has manufactured said flags at a price cheap enough for Kmart to flog them alongside chocolate bars and Tic Tacs. I hate the fact that our "national identity" has been commandeered by a bunch of people who will never attend a community Australia Day service, don't know anything about Rudd's apology to the nation's Indigenous people, persist in using the terms "queue jumpers" and allow their diet to be dictated by a moron with a lamb chop clenched in his greasy fist in a manner that reflects a neanderthal a little too closely for comfort.

    The bogans are multiplying, and as they do so, are brushing aside any opportunity for people to have a genuine dialogue about where our country is heading, why we celebrate the things we do, and who we should be holding up as "national icons". I often despair at this.

    However, the only way to overcome this is to force this dialogue to happen, and to be one of the minority of people to openly do things differently on Australia Day (or ANZAC Day, or Christmas for that matter). I believe it's about making a positive statement about how the things that are truly important are being overshadowed by frenzied marketing nonsense, and that communities, large and small, need to step away from this rubbish that is being constantly stuffed down our throats.

    You're right - there's no reason to celebrate a day that saw the mass murder and displacement of Aboriginal Australians. But there is room for a day when we can reflect on how wrong this was; commit to never doing that again; vow to shelter people who come to us seeking a refuge; and thank the people in our communities who, every other day of the year, go without thanks for making the places we live worth living in. That's what I think Australia Day is about. It's just sad that Sam Kekovich and his horde of wankers have not yet seen that.

  4. Thanks Lauren (and of course Dette and Hibou),

    You are so right (and thank goodness for people like you)!

    I know I should take a higher road (I'm so gratified to see that you do)and I'm really sad now because I recognise that I used to be as optimistic as you in being able to foster a grassroots change in opinion; it's been sucked out of me and I think I can pin point the exact moment: Republic Referendum 1999.

    The following day I wanted to punch every second person in the street square in the face - wow, I really am an ANGRY person, aren't I? - as I'd have a fair chance of getting some of the 55% who voted against it and ruined our chances of having a positive symbolic statement for our future nationhood.

    12 years of the poisonous attitudes of the Howard government didn't help and following the euphoria of what was supposed to be a positive Labor government; fizzling out "blah" and to pandering to these same bogan idiots that kept Howard there for so long...I'm really flat on the whole thing.

    I need to get more positive.

    I just really wish we had a better day to do that about 27th May, the day after "National Sorry Day" we could have "National Reflection and Growing a Heart Day"? You can start it in Vic and I'll get things simmering here in WA.....
    Love Anki

  5. Blurgh. I hear you. Toxic conservatism has permeated everything we do in this country, from the top right down to the idiot kids squishing potato chips into the footpath out the front of the local fish and chip shop just for something to do. It's infuriating, counterproductive and soul crushing.

    Thank goodness, though, that you, in Western Australia, and I, in eastern Australia, are embarking upon a systematic "grow a heart" shake-up of our respective communities, that will see bogans chased from our neighbourhoods into central Australia, where, hopefully they'll be attacked by emus and kangaroos and never seen again!

    Seriously, though, bogan idiots thrive on knowing they're sucking the spirit out of everyone else. This is why you can't be angry and you can't give in - you just have to do what you know is right, and bloody well keep doing it. It might not seem like it, but there are other people like us out there, who are fed up, and looking for someone else to initiate positive action (even if only in a small way) so that they too can chip in. It has happened on a small scale here in my town...I reckon it can happen on a larger scale too.

    So don't be angry Anki. You're a smart person, you can do whatever you want to do (just don't punch people), and say whatever you want to say. It'll all make a difference you know - even if you don't think it will right now. Hell, just look at Tunisia, and look at Egypt - young people, without jobs, and without cash, and without educations giving those crusty old dictatorial buggers the finger. If there's a group of people who should be feeling downhearted and angry about their country's situation, it's them, but they're jolly well standing up and doing something about it! How inspiring!

    May 27 is circled on my calendar! I'll see you in central Australia! : )

  6. I have to say that I hate how the Howard government made it compulsory for us to indoctrinate the kids with ANZAC celebrations, at one stage schools received letters outlining how anzac assemblies were to be run and i am uneasy with the hand on the heart approach to these events now and having old RSL guys come in to spout about it- some have been very dodgie in my opinion and all children have to attend them from pre primary to year 7. The year before last one little girl broke into tears she was so terrified by the images of war and the solemness of the occasion. But I seem to be a lone voice protesting against it. So I work by presenting a message of peace in the classroom as best as I can. I wonder if I can not attend the assembly on conscientious objection grounds?

  7. So anyway my point was that many young people have been a bit brainwashed through this over the last few years in my opinion.

  8. ANZAC day = your freedom, its only via ANZAC day that you can say what you said.

    as for Australia day, if australia is "invaded" let the aborigionals declare war and fend off the invasion.

  9. Goodness me "anonymous" Australia's Indigenous people did try to "fend off the invasion" - and were killed in great number as a result - perhaps you should have a bit of a read of your history. Here's a useful staring point -

    Also, as I'm quite sure your haven't actually read my post, I was commenting on Australia Day and my only reference to Anzac Day was the distasteful way that people act around it. Was this how you spent your Anzac Day, trawling the internet for people's blog comments to slam? Personally, quite reflection and respect for the people who died works better for me.