When Shopbop asked me to provide a few quotes and captions about my favourite things to do on Australia Day, to accompany these editorial images I shot for them, I was all why yes, no problemo, I’ll send those through in twenty minutes. Two hours later, I had only two lines of text with non-commital references to lying on the beach, finishing Grace Coddington’s memoirs, eating food, wearing work shirts as beach cover ups, and No Pants Friday. It wasn’t even Friday.
I hit send with an after-note – ‘Hope these work – Happy Australia Day!”
Happy Australia Day?
According to my Facebook newsfeed, the remaining reputable newspapers in Australia (and a few abroad), and the odd drunk stumbling out of a pub bender, Australia Day is likely the angriest day of the year. Don’t get me started on those Facebook statuses and Tweets, both ill- and over-informed, where knowers-all write essays about history and pride and racism and invasion.
It’s true that Australia is the only country to pinpoint its national celebrations on the date of European invasion, and not Independence, and it does not, to be honest, have the best connotations for our Indigenous community. I wholeheartedly understand actions like this, and condemn articles like this as inexplicably selfish. I do think that Sorry Day, or February 13 of Kevin Rudd’s official apology, or even as far back as Gough Whitlam and Vincent Lingiari in ’75 would be more appropriate and socially acceptable calendar pins for a celebratory long weekend.
But, I also believe that the situation is not as black and white, shall we say, as it was when John Howard was a fool and refused to take any responsibility for the consequences of colonialism. Since then, Australian society has evolved significantly – to be more accepting, to be more open-minded, to be more considerate, and to celebrate very different values. How about the record number of people who were honored yesterday for being amazing Australians? How about the record number of people who took their Australian citizenship pledge yesterday? Would the sentiment of these achievements really be irreconcilably different had it been tomorrow, or the day after, February 13, May 26 or August 26?
In the same why that Armistice Day is now Remembrance Day (changed to remember all who have been lost in conflict beyond WWI), and ANZAC Day has grown to appreciate all servicemen of Australia and New Zealand (not just one group on one day in history), Australia Day should be about celebrating being Australian, whatever that means for the individual. I’m proudly Australian, because I grew up here, and this is home. My parents are proudly Australian because it welcomed their immigration in the 90s, and has allowed them a safe and beautiful place to raise two kids and build exciting careers. My boyfriend is proudly Australian because he identifies with the natural environment and multiculturalism despite our geographic isolation. An Indigenous Elder might be proudly Australian because this has been his ancestors’ land for over 40,000 years. A white Australian might be proudly so because his great grandparents started a new life here 250 years go. My best friend from high school really was proudly Australian because of No Pants Friday.
Why should ‘Australia Day’ be couched in a single, outdated, blanket meaning? Why should any one person have a problem with the motivations for someone else’s celebration of being Australian?
Get up to speed. Stop stepping on each other’s toes. This is no longer a valid region for debate.
Enough – what did you all get up to on your Australia Day? And, on an even lighter note, what did you wear?
These were my get-ups of choice on the quietest beach I could find, despite the sporadic weather.
Happy Australia Day weekend!