26 January is a special day. In addition to being the day of my birth (thanks for the fireworks, Australia!), it’s a day we can all come together and celebrate what makes this country great, despite our imperfections as a nation.
I know we’re not perfect (who on earth is?), but what the small number of noisy naysayers fail to mention is that by ‘changing’ or ‘moving’ the date, we erode and would eventually end the celebration of what makes Australia the vibrant, easy-going nation that it is.
Consider these quotes from some great fellow Australians:
‘Australia is the country with Indigenous heritage, British foundations, and an immigrant character … and that Indigenous heritage is one of the three great pillars on which modern Australia is built.’
– Tony Abbott, Former Prime Minister of Australia
‘No country in the world has had a good beginning. They had revolutions, invasions, colonisation and everything like that… It’s not about that history, because it’s just fact, we’ve just got to live with that.’
– Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO
‘It (Australia Day) should be a day of celebration, of love. Hug someone. Forgive somebody. Love somebody. That’s what we should be celebrating. What happened in the past was horrific. Let’s come together, let’s build a future for the next generation.’
– Ps James Dargin
26 January 1988 was an extra special birthday for me. An estimated 2.5 million Australians, ‘by far the biggest crowd to attend a single Australian event’ according to The Sydney Morning Herald, flocked to Sydney and its beautiful Harbour to celebrate the Bicentenary. Dad and I were there, and I remember the day like it was yesterday.
After Mum ensured we had sufficient food, water and sun protection, Dad and I crowded onto the old red rattler at Wollongong Train Station, well before sunrise. The train trip to Sydney was non-eventful, but that all changed once we eventually arrived at Circular Quay. There were people and Australian flags everywhere!
They had colonial-era Troopers ‘on guard’ and a First Fleet Re-enactment complete with tug boats shooting streams of water high in the sky (pretty sure they didn’t have those in 1788?). As a kid, the ships were spectacular and the Harbour seemed to be absolutely covered in vessels. Even Prince (now King) Charles and Princess Diana were there, but considering the crowds, there was never any chance Dad or I would get a glimpse of them.
Being able to see much at all due to the crowds was the biggest challenge for Dad and me. The highlight for me came later in the day: somewhere near the Harbour, Dad seized an opportunity, and together we scaled a large, conveniently horizontal tree branch. The view was fantastic, until several other passers-by also decided to join us in the tree. Unable to sustain our combined weight, with an ominous loud cracking sound the branch, thankfully gently, sadly sank to the ground.
Our fellow branch compatriots having disappeared into the crowd, one look from Dad was all it took for me to know we’d better leave the scene pronto, too. I seem to remember a visibly frustrated ranger appearing at some point, too, but that could be my memory playing tricks…
Waltzing Matilda was the song of the day, and completely understandably, there were protests about the British invading 200 years earlier, too. After all, Australia is, and by God’s grace will continue to be, a free country. I hope Australian larrikinism never dies.
Some described Sydney’s Bicentenary celebrations as ‘glorious confusion’, which is perhaps unkind to the event organisers, but it’s probably apt. Think of it: Over 200 years ago, some intrepid English-folk, many of them convicts, arrived in a strange yet beautiful land. Despite Governor Phillip’s best intentions, sadly, the tragedy of colonisation took its toll on our beloved Indigenous brothers and sisters. Yet somehow, Australia has grown into the blessed country it is today. Glorious confusion, indeed.
I’ll be forever grateful my parents facilitated the celebration of special days like Australia Day for my siblings and me. If you can, make sure you celebrate special days with your family and friends, too.
Continue to celebrate Australia Day with your friends and family. While you’re at it, make sure you celebrate Christmas, Easter, ANZAC Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and any other days you can think of too. You’ll have more fun, your kids will love it, and it’s simply the best way to combat the tiny number of noisy naysayers. Even better, you’ll create special memories with your kids that will never be forgotten. Just Keep Celebrating!
Yours for Celebrating,
Originally published at Dads4Kids.