UN-AUSTRALIAN PARTY POOPER
Call me a party-pooper, a wet blanket, a knocker and a killjoy, but when I sighted rows and rows of merchandise being peddled for Australia Day in my local Safeways, I had to ask myself what we were really celebrating this Australia day, January 26th? According to the Australia day website, “Australia Day celebrates the anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip unfurling the British flag at Sydney Cove and proclaiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia on 26 January 1788.” Ho Hum, I thought.
That’s the official line but for many Australians such an interpretation is meaningless. It’s ridiculous to imply that Aussies only slipped into their running shoes on that date. What about the 40,000 year old civilisation that was here already? Our own Prime Minister last year in a speech before the British Prime Minister said that Australia was “nothing but bush” before British invasion and called pre-colonisation civilisation “extraordinarily basic and raw”. We’ve still got a long way to go.
For the majority of indigenous Australians January 26th is more aptly called Invasion or Survival Day.
According to Nakkiah Lui, a writer for theatre and TV and a proud Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander woman from Mount Druitt in Sydney, “… Australia Day is a day of mourning. It is not a day to go over to my friends’ to sit in a blow up pool and get drunk, and it’s definitely not a day to wear red, white and blue while waving a flag with a Union Jack and a Southern Cross on it.”
When I do some quick research on the official website to see what’s happening in my local area I discover the highlight is an event called the ‘Havaianas Thong Challenge’ in Torquay which is described as “an iconic family-friendly event(which) brings thousands of people together to have fun, and celebrate being Australian!” When I see those weasel words, ‘iconic’ and ‘family-friendly’, I’m already getting grumpy and then there’s that exclamation mark at the end!! Evidently Havaianas is a Brazilian-owned company anyway. Patriotism does have its limits.
There’s got to be a more meaningful way to celebrate Captain Arthur Philip’s Big Day Out. Is it ‘un-Australian’ and failing to play on ‘team Australia’ if you get grumpy about celebrating Australia Day?
I do believe that there’s something eerily manufactured about a government encouraging us to celebrate some fantasy idea of who we are. It becomes just a case of ‘bread and circuses’ in the end.The Smith Street Band might call themselves “a shitty band from Melbourne who enjoy mock meat and alcohol” but their contribution to Australia day 2015 is to release a new single dedicated to our current Prime Minister entitled Wipe That Shit-Eating Grin Off Your Punchable Face. Interestingly up until the end of February 100% of all proceeds from this digital release will be donated to assist various asylum seeker and refugee organisations throughout Australia. Now that’s what I call celebrating!
I’d like to feel totally proud to call myself Australian and there is a lot to be thankful for as a citizen but our current debacle of an asylum seeker policy is one situation that has tarnished our reputation. It’s difficult to celebrate when, as I write, on Manus Island a number of men have swallowed razor blades, stitched their lips together and swallowed washing powder, driven like dogs into an inescapable corner by an out-of-control juggernaut that represents years of Labor/Liberal asylum seeker policy. My Australia Day barbeque sausage just got stuck in my throat.
Less than two months ago the United Nations Committee against Torture criticised our asylum seeker policy, calling for an end to mandatory detention, especially for children. Would you believe that Australia was a founding member of the United Nations and played a prominent role in the negotiation of the UN Charter of Human Rights in 1945? Australia was also one of eight nations involved in drafting the Universal Declaration.
However, in August 2013 the United Nations Human Rights Committee found Australia to be in breach of its obligations under international law, committing 143 human rights violations by indefinitely detaining 46 refugees for four years, on the basis of ASIO’s ‘adverse security assessments’.
I’m not sure how it came about that we became such a selfish and narcissistic nation of navel-gazers in breach of our obligations. Perhaps we just had it too good for too long and forgot our responsibilities.
I wish there was an alternative to merely recycling this same old grumpiness. Australia has a huge reservoir of talent and ingenuity, its youth an untapped resource but I can’t see the point of celebrating huge opportunities turned into massive failures. No thong parties for me on January 26th.