Kobi talks about being complacent with her identity as an Australian and her sentiments towards Australia Day. Photo by Kobi.
Australia Day, January 26 merges everything I despise about this country and my fellow citizens into a neat 24 hours. I think this means I miss the point of it a little, but then again I don’t know that it even has one.
Traditionally, it was a celebration of white settlement. The day that some boats landed on our shores (the irony pains me) and thought such land, such opportunity, such better life, such Terra Nullis (nb. not a legitimate quote from Captain Arthur Phillip or first settlers). Tony Abbott appealed to the average ignorant Australian holding their VB in a piece of apparel pimped out with the Australian flag when he said Western Civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that.
Perhaps I despise the day because I am a little nebulous when it comes to my own identity as an Australian. I mean, honestly I am Australian what does it even mean?
School taught me being Australian was studying Banjo Patterson, the legend of bushrangers like Ned Kelly while honouring the story of the ANZACS. In the defense of our education system; for a solid part of our national history WE WERE white men in akubras. School teaches us about the historical atrocities of many nations from the Nazi regime during World War Two to the enslavement and persecution of the African-Americans. However, when it comes to our nation’s own historical fallbacks we are taught very little. Atrocities such as the declaration of Terra Nullis and the government’s White Australia Policy are briefly touched on but seldom taught with any conviction.
Australia is Australia thanks to Banjo Patterson, bushrangers like Ned Kelly and the legend and sacrifices of ANZACS. Australia is also Australia thanks to Terra Nullis, The White Australia Policy and the ongoing settlement of asylum seekers. Without acknowledging the damning pieces in our history (and indeed present) we cannot celebrate the complete union of our nation.
Part of being Australian is to understand why Invasion Day marches and festivals are an integral part of the 26th of January. Being Australian is to understand why Kevin Rudd apologized to Aboriginal Australians. Being Australian is about reveling in and sharing in each other’s unique heritages; because being Australian should be about being diverse. Not about throwing some meat on a BBQ and removing the first two vowels from our country’s name so that it is easier to slur amongst mates.
Personally, I refuse to celebrate in my own sense of Australian identity (however lacking it might be) when so many continue to feel marginalized and excluded. Our national anthem blatantly states, For those who come across the sea, we’ve boundless plains to share. And while that line still exists within our anthem and is sung with little conviction at a Sunday Rugby games, I refuse to celebrate Australia Day. I refuse to take part in rejoice in inclusion when so many human beings are treated like complete shizahausen. January 26 marks the day in which white settlement arrived; the foundation of the country we know today. January 26 is also a reminder of our traditional owner’s broken and painful past and that is not something I want to rejoice in by opening a can of Jack Daniels and covering every inch of my body in temporary (or otherwise) tattoos.
For Indigenous Australians the land is at the core of all spirituality. I think our belonging together and co-existence on the land is something to rejoice and celebrate in; on a day which does not marginalize people.
Australia is young and still figuring its shit out and that’s ok because I am too. But I don’t need a day filled with Union Jacks, Southern Crosses and VB to remind me of that.