Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, that country’s national day. It commemorates the arrival on this day in 1788 of the first fleet and the establishment of the Colony of New South Wales. Like national days in other countries, it’s marked by official celebrations, swearing-in new citizens and so on.

But like
New Zealand’s Waitangi Day, there’s also controversy.

To Aboriginal Australians, the day represents the arrival of their oppressor. But even some Australians of European descent don’t see the attraction of this particular date, commemorating the establishment of one colony.
Western Australia, for example, wasn't claimed by Britain until 19 September 1829.

Alternative days for celebration are sometimes proposed. One day, also proposed sometimes for
New Zealand, is ANZAC Day, but that’s already a pubic holiday and sacred to military veterans. January 1 is the anniversary of the founding of the Australian federal union. But that, too, is already a public holiday. So, January 26 is it for now at least.

It’s good for people to pause every now and again to think about their country. Those counties in a pretty good space should take time to feel some pride—without veering into jingoism or blatant nationalism, of course. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of pride, well-measured and well-understood, in one’s own country.

Australia has much to be proud of. There are real achievements and accomplishments to celebrate, and much more to come.

Sure, there are bad things about
Australia. Every country has dark pages in its national history, and every country has things about it that are embarrassing or worse. Those who criticise Australia for its shortcomings should also recognise that the country isn’t alone or unique in having negative aspects. To be sure, even I mention those shortcomings from time to time.

But not today.

Today is
Australia’s national day. So to them I say, Happy Australia Day.

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