I love Australia and I love Australia Day!
That might not always be the most popular thing to say but let me explain why. First of all, I am unashamedly proud of this country, its multiculturalism and the freedom our democracy affords us. Having travelled to many parts of the world, 75 countries in all, I know not to take for granted what we have in this amazing country. We are exceptionally fortunate, truly the lucky country.
Some ridicule Australia Day by saying that to celebrate is failing to recognize the mistreatment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples in the past. My view is that we should never dismiss or fail to acknowledge this dark part of our history, rather we should learn from it. On Wednesday 13 February 2008, the leader of our country apologized for a blemished chapter in our nation's history by saying sorry to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples. The raw emotion that I witnessed on that day was moving and something I will never forget. No matter who you vote for, it was a moment to be proud of. Our Government was doing what was right and just. It was a step towards reconciliation. It was a turning point in our history. Australia Day for me is about celebrating who we are today as a Nation, a Nation that must recognise our past and a country that must continue to look to the future for all peoples. I believe in an Australia that must and should recognise its rich diversity, many peoples and cultures.
I think our National anthem captures the essence of what it is I am trying to articulate. I am sure I do not need to detail it here, I'd be confident that you will know the words if Australian.
We are a young and free country, fortunate to have a democracy yet also a country with one of the oldest histories of original peoples in the world. Democracy should never be taken for granted, I am proud that I vote and always have a say in the democratic process of my country as all adults are required to do.
When I travel I realise, as so many Australians do, how vast our land is. The sheer size of our country and its rich beauty are something we can easily take for granted. Beauty rich and rare in regards to animal and plant life which are unique throughout the world. We are truly blessed with some amazing sites and wildlife which we must continue to care for and preserve. I do rejoice that I am Australian but it is more than the environment that really makes me proud. Cue verse two, the one that most tend not to play or sing.
It is easy to forget that the majority of us, or our families, immigrated to this land. The story of immigration to Australia is a story of richness, hard work, determination, wanting a fair-go and opportunity for all. Recent media stories often paint those who’ve come across the seas in a negative light but our history shows that such voyages have strengthened and built this country. From the one pound ‘poms’, Greek and Italian migration, post Vietnam war immigrants and more recently those from Africa who I have enjoyed teaching and working with for the past 10 years. Each unique culture adds to the rich tapestry of the Australian culture and our individual and collective experience as Australians.
The reality is we do have boundless lands to share. Since settlement, people have come to Australia in the hope of a fresh start, a chance, a new life, an opportunity. Together our gifts make us stronger than the individual. Our talents and gifts combine to form community, the backbone of Australia. So with courage let us all combine.
Australia Day to me is a chance to advance Australia Fair. To rejoice that I am Australian and that so many different peoples are also Australian. To think about our fortune and to imagine and hope for a bright future of prosperity for all Australians where we stand side by side in communities that recognize and accept the strength of our diversity of talents and cultures. That I live in a country where I can experience the world and share something in common with every person is for me what makes me so proud of this extraordinary country. I am Australian.
So this Australia Day, rejoice, celebrate, share. Treat others with dignity and respect. Extend the hand of friendship and mate-ship. It is by doing this, through people, that we really Advance Australia Fair!