This public holiday celebrates the first fleet arriving at Sydney, a national day of pride reminding every one of the start of British Colonisation, some Aboriginals still call it ‘Invasion Day’. Given that it is a public holiday, both our offices are closed, our bins were still emptied (can not imagine that happening on a Bank Holiday in the UK) we can still go shopping, to the cinema, for a swim, pretty much anything you would normally do on a weekend. Evidently celebrating the National Holiday is a day for ‘leisure activities’. We’ve been invited to a BBQ and will go for a walk. And catch up on the ironing.
Although I must admit, watching the people flock into Queensland to help clear and clean after the floods shows more about National Pride that this holiday ever will. That same movement of cleaning and clearing is now happening in Victoria, where we’re being flooded. Washing livestock and crops away, towns are being flooded with water, residents watch the water disperse with relief, but also dread, knowing their neighbours down river are next in line to be swamped.
Still whatever celebrations that happen here, it’s better than St. George’s day where if you celebrate that in Britain, you are mostly labelled racist. But St. David’s day in Welsh Wales is celebrated with abandon, St. Andrew’s Day and Burns Night are both nodded to in Scotland, particularly Burns night, and St. Patrick’s day is acknowledged the world over. I’ve never understood why British people are now not allowed to celebrate their patron saint. I’m guessing because it’s been hijacked by the British National Party, who are little more than Nazi’s out of uniform.
Every year on Australia Day there is yet another push for Australia becoming a republic, and today we read of a campaign for getting rid of the Union Jack from the flag, what most Aussies seem to not realise that becoming a republic will cost a fortune. It’s not as easy as just deposing Her Majesty from the bank notes and postage stamps. Every law will need to be re-written, every crown in every court, and on every Mace dotted about the country will need to be removed, the currency will need to be re-minted, every passport will need to be changed and (let’s talk what most people talk over here, sport) they won’t be able to compete at the Commonwealth Games.
I am a staunch Royalist, everyone who knows me knows that. However, I am ambivalent about Australia becoming a republic. If they do, funding from the Commonwealth will stop, having a huge on-flow effect across the country, and will stop before any new changes are in place. Yes Australia is miles away from the UK, but the infrastructure here is intertwined with the infrastructure in the UK. Become a republic, or don’t, but don’t take for granted everything that you’re going to have to change. You can change the status quo in sweeping statements very easily, but physically and logistically it will take years and huge amounts of money to change. You’ll have your independence, but at what cost? That is the side of the argument that is very quiet, and one that needs to be voiced louder.
Either way, Australia is my home. I felt that when I struggled to get on a flight back to the UK with Hubs, crying as we took off from Melbourne airport. Despite knowing I was booked to return permanently 5 short months later, those 5 months were too long. I like that they have a day where they acknowledge Australia, how beautiful she is and Australians, how funny, kind and generous they are. It can represent all that is bad about the country too, Bogans and the other stereotype Aussies that are regarded as a joke, but are here if you look for them. There are also just as many racists here as back in the UK. But some people have fled and emigrated to this island for the same reasons they’ve fled and emigrated to the UK, the USA; for protection from genocide, persecution and torture. People abuse the system, claiming asylum and trying to arrive illegally, or finding loop-holes in laws; as an example if one student comes to study, they could bring their whole family over a couple of years later.
Racists are racists the world over, rednecks are rednecks the world over, but we’re all living in multi-cultural societies now, Australia Day isn’t just for the British to hum and haw and pat themselves on the back for another colonial conquer, while dipping their oversized walrus moustaches into a whisky and soda. It celebrates every race, colour, creed that arrived, contributed and have pledged allegiance to this country, this land, this flag, and ultimately this Queen. You change one thing, you change everything. What would you celebrate on 26 January instead? You can’t celebrate the commonwealth arriving at your country, if you’re not in the commonwealth.