Monday the 26th January 2015 is Australia Day – the official national day of Australia. This year we are enjoying a long weekend – with warm summer weather.
Australia Day also marks the end of the summer holidays for school students as they return to a new school year in the coming few days. No more public holidays until Easter at the end of March.
Australia Day is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour) in 1788. Governor Arthur Phillip claimed this continent as a British colony. When I was in primary school all of my classmates were Caucasian with one exception being an Australian born Indian boy who was also a good friend.
My family has ancestry in England and Ireland, so the idea of Australia Day seemed natural as we celebrated our nation’s growth and membership in the British Commonwealth.
A lot has happened since I was at school. In 1992 The High Court recognised native title in Australia for the first time, which rejected the doctrine of terra nullius (empty land) and making Governor Phillip an invader. In 2008 the Labor Government under the leadership of Kevin Rudd apologised to the indigenous Australians for the stolen generations of children. In public meetings we now acknowledge the traditional owners of the land.
Australia has become a multicultural society. The 2011 Census showed that half of our population of 21.5 million were born overseas. The most commonly spoken languages after English are Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese and Greek.
Instead of commemorating a British invasion, we can use Australia Day to celebrate the good things about this country – our democracy and enjoyable quality of life. I was interested to read the perspective of Mabel Kwong – an Asian-Australian living in Melbourne and what being Australian means to her: laid-back, easy-going, work hard, play hard, being social, giving people a fair go, and enjoying sport.
Australia Day is a time of recognising people for their valuable contributions and you can read more on the Australia Day website about the Australian of the Year, and Young Australian of the Year. We too can acknowledge the people in our lives and show our appreciation.
I will be enjoying my Australia Day with my family and friends, and enjoying lunch by the pool with a glass of Australian wine.
Aussie kids enjoying cricket on the beach: