WITH Australia Day events being celebrated around the country and growing in popularity each year, Dubbo Weekender asked a cross-section of community members about what the day means to them and how they plan on celebrating… or not. SOME will embrace it in all the usual fun-filled, flag-bedecked ways with barbecues and community celebrations, honours and awards ceremonies, while others will make the choice not to partake in a day they say recognises only a small part of our nation’s broad history.
January 26 acknowledges the anniversary of the First Fleet of British ships arriving in Sydney’s Port Jackson in 1788 and the raising of the Union Jack flag there by Governor Arthur Phillip.
Although the nomination of the date as our national day didn’t happen until more than a century later, records of celebrations date back to the early 1800s.
It wasn’t until 1935 that all the states and territories collectively adopted the name Australia Day. In 1994 the day was marked as a public holiday right across the country.
The day means different things to different people – here are just some of those differing thoughts:
Assistant Police Commissioner Geoff Mckechnie:
I WILL be attending the Dubbo City Council Australia Day celebrations in Victoria Park in the morning and then be enjoying some time at home in the afternoon with my family. We’ll probably have a barbie and watch a bit of cricket, as you do! I think Australia Day is an important time to remember all the opportunities that lie before us here in this country. It’s a time to be thankful for living in such a great country, because not everyone is as lucky as we are, so it’s a good time to reflect on those things.
Wellington Buddhist community’s Gen-la Thubten:
AUSTRALIA is a fortunate country with freedom to practice the religions that we do. I feel fortunate to be in a country where we can vote for our politicians, even though I might not agree with the majority most of the time. I’m grateful that there are many different nationalities that come under the banner and are living in this fortunate place.
Wellington Business Chamber’s Viv Wellington:
I WILL be in Cameron Park in Wellington cooking snags for Rotary. For me, Australia Day is all about celebrating the local heroes in my community. I really enjoy seeing the awards given out each year to the good people who give back in my town. I think it’s important to give back to your community; my involvement with Rotary enables me to do that consistently. I’M not one to celebrate occasions and holidays usually, but Australia Day in Wellington is a day I look forward to.
Kristie Klaassens, Dubbo:
TO me Australia Day is a chance to get together with friends and celebrate all things Australian. I like to take a moment to reflect on our ancestors and everything they went through to create modern day Australia. Without their efforts we would not be the strong, fun loving, multicultural country I love. TO celebrate this year we are having a BBQ in the park called Game of Thongs. It will be a relaxing time with a few games like the thong toss thrown in for fun.
Headspace’s Nicholas Steepe:
I PLAN on doing what Australians do best – relaxing. It’ll be refreshing to be back on Australian soil after a massive holiday in the USA! And catching up with friends and family!
Lightning Ridge businesswoman Rebel Black:
MY Australia Day plans are work. It’s a great day to get strategy done with no interruptions as everyone is on holidays – not very patriotic, I know, but perhaps I am celebrating the incredible opportunities I have as an entrepreneur to create new streams of income and new jobs in rural Australia. I live in gratitude for being Australian and enjoy the freedom we have every day. We might dig in the garden and throw a chook in the home built wood fired oven, too.
Member for Parkes Mark Coulton:
WHEN I was younger, I don’t remember Australia Day being as celebrated as it is now. As a young adult I don’t recall attending anything celebrating Australia Day and I’m not sure when it all started but every year more and more people turn up, which is terrific.
Last year I was in Dubbo and it was such a great morning; there was the band playing and hundreds of people sitting in the shade. Australia Day doesn’t just celebrate you being an “ocker” – it’s become a day of celebrations no matter where you come from. I get a thrill out of seeing our newer Australians becoming citizens, dressed in their suits and celebrating the day as well, and I love seeing how seriously they take it. I go somewhere different every year and this year I’ll be attending five different ceremonies on Australia Day. I’m off to Condobolin, Lake Cargelligo, Tullibigeal, Fifield and Tottenham.
Leila Mahyari, motel manager:
THE first year we were here in Dubbo we didn’t know anything about Australia Day, so I was reading up on it and thinking how nice it is and how very proud everyone was of their country. And they wanted to show everyone around the world that they love Australia with waving their flags and having fun together.
I work at a motel, so I will be celebrating it here with my family and the guests. I think I will put little Australian flags in all the rooms and decorate the motel. I think our customers would like that when arriving here on Australia Day. It will be fun!
Brett “Mon” Garling Artist:
Every day is Australia Day for me. Each day I get up and go out and paint and enjoy the scenery and the country side, and just being upright and breathing. It’s a great country and we have plenty of freedom still, so
what’s not to enjoy? On Australia Day itself, we will probably do the typical thing and have a barbecue or go down to the river, but it’s usually just adlibbed. I don’t like to over-plan things – we’ll just go with the flow.
Kris Stevens, Dubbo:
I’LL be having a very quiet day and I will be respecting the fact that it’s not a celebration for everyone and I’m of the opinion that perhaps the day should be changed or the date, at least, so it doesn’t have all those negative associations attached to it. Then it would be a clean slate and a day that we all can rejoice in and be happy that we are different but we are all actually Australians and look to the future, rather than a date that reminds some of us of some terrible things that occurred. So a quiet day here, respecting everyone’s views. By the way, nationalism means taking for credit for things you didn’t do and at the same time hating people you’ve never met.
Narromine’s Jolyon Laforgue and New York’s Treva Webeck:
TREVA and I, while we come from different countries, have similar views on Australia Day and America’s Independence and Columbus days – their indigenous people also call the Fourth of July “invasion day”. I said to a friend the other day that I can spend Australia Day celebrating living in the greatest country in the world or I could ring up the ABC and be a socialist progressive and side with the indigenous people and republicans and talk about how badly we need to change and start by pulling the union jack off the flag. It’s pretty straight down the line for me - to each his own.
Andrew Mckay, Dubbo:
I usually start the day by going down to the Dubbo City Council Australia Day celebrations in Victoria Park. After that I like to have a pretty relaxing sort of day; if someone’s having a barbecue I might attend that or go on a bike ride, watch a bit of cricket or have a paddle along our beautiful river. Just enjoying the beautiful weather and recognising what a great place it is to live in.
Trixie Watts, community health worker:
I celebrate Australia Day sometimes by attending the events in Victoria Park in the morning or with family or sometimes we go up to the Macquarie Inn, they have a great family day up there. It just depends what’s happening with friends and family. As an Aboriginal woman, Australia Day can be both a sad day and a happy day for me. It is sad in that I recognise what my grandparents and great grandparents went through but at the same time I’m happy because there are a lot of really good non-indigenous people who have been a wonderful support to me throughout my life. I have mixed children and I think you have to be thankful for what we have now while recognising the mistakes in the past as well.
Alicia Leggett, Orana Arts :
AS a US citizen I am a bit confused by Australia Day. We don’t really do anything for the day specifically, but we do catch up with my husband Shaun’s family. But what I found interesting is because it was such a new holiday to me, and as a new person observing, is that it’s not really well received by all of Australia; the whole nation doesn’t back it.
People I have worked with have called it “invasion day” or artists that I’ve worked with have said it’s a very challenging day for them. So I have all these different views of it. I thought, well, what’s the difference between this day and Independence day in the US and in the US, Independence Day is celebrating the freedom from England and Britain and here it’s kind of like celebrating the British coming!
And then you see the stereotype, the loud, drunken, flag wearing beach goer? It’s a funny holiday, so no, we don’t really do too much to acknowledge it in our family.