Australia Day has, for me at least, always been the bookend of summer – from Christmas to Australia Day, it’s summer. Everything operates at a different pace, people aren’t around – they’re off at the beach, visiting friends and family, being on holidays. Even businesses that are open are more casual and more laid back. Come the day after Australia Day though – it’s all back to normal. Suits and ties are on, shorts are back in the wardrobe til next summer. Kids are back in school, too. They finish just before Christmas, they go back just after Australia Day. Summer with bookends. And people got citizenship on Australia Day, so it was a day of mild significance, the last long weekend of summer.
Somewhere along the line though, Australia Day changed. Maybe as early as the bicentenary in 1988, maybe it started then and grew until the Cronulla Riots in 2005. Don’t think most people even know what Australia Day represents (the day the First Fleet landed in Sydney in 1788 – so yeah, not really a fine day for the original inhabitants. Actually, from all accounts* it wasn’t totally pants for them until the late 1790’s when the governor of the day got his knickers in a twist and started ordering mass slaughters all round. Which is enough for anyone to be a bit underwhelmed by the whole thing).
Anyway, I digress. I’m wondering about when Australia Day stopped being so much the last weekend of summer to HELLO BOGANS LETS GET SMASHED AND WEAR FLAGS AS CAPES AND BEAT UP PEOPLE BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT YEAH! I saw a young aborigine girl in the supermarket just before Australia Day and she was hurrying her very young daughter past the display telling her it wasn’t their thing, it was all ‘white fella’ stuff. She wasn’t mean or nasty about it, just matter of fact. I ended up chatting to her for a while, and she told me how she felt that it had no meaning to whiteys aside from an excuse to get drunk. And maybe have a punch on.
I don’t think she was wrong at all.
And I don’t think she was wrong to move her daughter past it all, either. I move my kids past stuff I personally find offensive after all. It’s what good parents do. And when the alleged Minister for Education talks about “westernising” history and taking out the Aboriginal bits, because those bits are not about nice, grateful natives saying thank you for the tuberculosis and the diphtheria and the blankets… well. That’s something I also find offensive. And it’s something that will pander to the great unwashed who think Straya Day Mate is the day for drinkin’ beer and punching on.
Which brings me back to the drinkin’ and the punching on. Since when did Australia Day become all about getting as wasted as you can get and stop being about that last long weekend? What made us turn into a nation of bogan flag-cape wearing dickheads with nothing further on our minds than the next VB and punching that bloke in the head who looked as you funny.
Might be rambling now. It’s getting late. I have sons. I want them to make it through their teens and twenties without being someones punching bag or feeling the need to punch someone else. And maybe understanding the rationale behind the boganisation of Straya Day might save them And me.
*Ok, something I was reading a couple of days ago that I can no longer find because I had to clear the cache and it’s all gone, dangtarnit. I’m pretty sure it was Governor King though.