This is Australia Day (26th January)
My Australia Day 2015
Today, 26th January was 'Australia Day' and a public holiday for all Australians. To celebrate this occasion my wife Kathy and I were invited to a BBQ hosted by the local QCWA (Queensland Country Women's Association) and held in a quiet bush setting at the home of some close friends.
Despite impending storms (which fortunately held off until we had finished lunch) and thunder threatening, we had a great day of good food and company in true "Aussie" tradition (informal, relaxed, and outdoors).
We actually cheated this year and had two Australia Day celebrations. Yesterday, Sunday 25th January we spent the day, and had another BBQ (Aussie's just love them) at our son's house. A nephew and his family that we hadn't seen for over two years contacted us to say they were passing through town and wished to catch up. We arranged to meet at Jared's for a BBQ and celebrate an early Australia Day. A day of fasting may be called for tomorrow to recover from an abundance of food.
While most Australians embrace a holiday and love to celebrate Australia Day in a variety of ways but generally relaxing with family and friends, good food and a few drinks, there is a lot more behind the day than that. I hope the rest of this hub may give you a little more insight.
How It Came To Be
On 26th January 1788 British sovereignty was proclaimed over the eastern seaboard of Australia (at the time known as New Holland)when the British flag was raised at Port Jackson, New South Wales by Governor Arthur Phillip of the First Fleet.
Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26th January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818. On New Years Day 1901, the British colonies of Australia formed a Federation, marking the birth of modern Australia.
It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories agreed on a national day of unity and adopted use of the term "Australia Day" to mark the date. Then not until 1994 was a nationwide public holiday declared on 26th January. unless it falls on a weekend in which case the following Monday becomes a public holiday instead.
The meaning and significance of Australia Day has evolved over time and proved somewhat controversial. The date has also been variously named "Anniversary Day", "Invasion Day", "Foundation Day", and "ANA (Australian Natives' Association Day).
The 2015 recipients are:
Australian of the Year 2015
Rosie Batty - Domestic Violence Campaigner
Senior Australian of the Year 2015
Jackie French - Author
Young Australian of the Year 2015
Drisana Levitzke-Gray - Deaf advocate
Australia's Local Hero 2015
Juliette Wright - Social entrepreneur
How the Day is Celebrated
In today's Australia, the holiday is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards, announcement of the Australia Day Honours list and obligatory addresses by the Governor-General and the Prime Minister.
On Australia Day eve each year, the Prime Minister announces the winner of the Australian of the Year award, presented to an Australian citizen who has shown a "significant contribution to the Australian community and nation" and is an "inspirational role model for the Australian community". Other awards include Young Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, and an award for Australia's Local Hero.
The variety of celebrations across the country reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, with community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, as well as citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community. The day is celebrated in cities, towns, and small communities around the nation. and Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.
A number of music festivals are held on this day, such as the Big Day Out, and the Australia Day Live Concert which is televised nationally. An international cricket match has also traditionally been held for many years on Australia Day at the Adelaide Cricket Oval.
What Australian Holidays Have You Heard Of?
Australia Day and Indigenous Australians
The choice of 26th January as the day of celebration for all Australians has been questioned and debated since the 1800s. That the day might symbolise invasion, dispossession and death to many Aboriginal people was a concept alien to the average Australian even until the latter half of the 20th century.
It has consistently been argued that January 26th “can never be a truly national day for it symbolises to many Aborigines the date they were conquered and their lands occupied. This divisive aspect to 26 January, the commemoration of the landing at Sydney Cove will never be reconciled” (Sydney Morning Herald 2 Jan 1995)
By 1888, the year of the centenary celebrations, the white population had increased significantly while the Aboriginal population had declined from at least 750,000 in 1788 to a mere estimated 67,000. (Aboriginal people were not counted in the census until after 1967).
Involvement of the Indigenous community on Australia Day has taken many forms – forced participation in re-enactments, mourning for Invasion Day, peaceful protest through to an acknowledgment of survival and an increasing participation in community events.
"Invasion Day" has been widely used to describe the alternative Indigenous observance of Australia Day. Although some Indigenous Australians celebrate Australia Day, Invasion Day protests occur almost every year. In Sydney in 1988 a large gathering of Aboriginal people led an "Invasion Day" remembrance protest marking the loss of Indigenous culture.
Re-enactments of Arthur Phillip’s landing continued to be part of Australia Day ceremonies around the country until the Bicentennial in 1988 when the New South Wales government refused to condone a re-enactment as part of their official proceedings.
26th January is also known as "Survival Day" and marked by events such as the Survival Day concert first held in Sydney in 1992, celebrating the fact that the Indigenous people and culture have not been completely wiped out. An increasing number of Indigenous communities are now participating in their local Australia/Survival Day ceremonies and celebrations. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are raised alongside the Australian flag.
The Woggan-ma-gule ceremony is also part of the day and offers a model for the present and future. It says that the Indigenous ceremony is an important and integral part of being a modern Australian. It offers recognition that the storylines of the past are full of pain because of the dispossession, brings the Indigenous voice back to the sacred grounds once more, and promotes values held by us all: the values of respect, tolerance and justice, for if asked, all Australians would say that these are central to our identity.
- Aboriginal rights protest disrupts 2015 Australia Day Parade in Melbourne
Hundreds of people marching for Aboriginal rights have disrupted official Australia Day celebrations in the Melbourne CBD.
Are We a Democratic Society?
In Australia we consider our society a democracy. According to The Australian Oxford Dictionary, the term democracy refers to "government by the whole population, usually through elected representatives; nation so governed or classless and tolerant society' (p284). Democracy is specified as:
1) The idea that all people in a country have identical rights.
2) A political system of social organisation where a representative and accountable government is elected and given the responsibility of ensuring the maintenance of law and order."
An integral part of a democracy is diversity of views. Gandhi said: "Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress. But honest debate can only come through trust and understanding, based on knowledge, not prejudices."
Debates such as: .
- Is it Australia Day or Survival Day?;
- Is a treaty a good thing for Australia;
- Should we have a Bill of Rights?
- Should our Constitution be amended to recognise our Aboriginal people?
are important for our society as they are part of the actual fabric of true democracy.
And if we call ourselves a democracy, then it is important to reflect on the successes of such a democracy, as well as the areas that need improvement. This can be done by asking ourselves a series of questions.
- Are all members of our society equal before the law?
- Do all members of our society have equal access to health and education services?
- Are identifiable groups in our society over-represented in prisons or below the poverty line?
- Are people free to walk anywhere at anytime?
Although there have been major advances made in regard to improving 'equality' and 'reconciliation' in recent years I still don't think we can be comfortable with the answers to these questions. Until we are then we are not a truly successful democracy.
Update Deng Thiak Adut's Inspiring Australia Day Speech
- Transcript: Deng Thiak Adut's Australia Day speech
The full transcript of Deng Thiak Adut's 2016 Australia Day address.
© 2015 John Hansen