Fun fact about Australia: before it became a legitimate, Federated country, one of its primary currencies was rum.
No wonder your average Aussie enjoys a solid booze session.
But, that’s not what I’m here to tell you about. I’m here to tell you about Australia Day. Wait, scratch that, Australia Day and booze sessions go hand in hand.
Just(ine) kidding. But, enough awful puns, and more about the who, what, when, where and why of Australia Day.
The Who and the What of Australia Day
Granted, to any outsider making an educated guess, with a name like “Australia Day”, it’s most likely going to be an entire day that involves the Australian people. And they’d be right.
But, what Australia Day is about is another thing. On the surface, it’s all about celebrating Australia as a country: its people, its places, its history, its culture, its achievements. Everything.
As part of these celebrations, there are a few events that are held on Australia Day – namely, the cricket test match between Australia and Pakistan, the announcement of Australian of the Year, and Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown. Oh, and whatever smaller parties Aussies like to throw as part of the day’s gaieties. Sure, they all sound like markedly separate activities, but they all capture the spirit of Australians and Australia Day.
Australia Day is generally the fifth, and last, day of the annual test match between Australia and Pakistan. Australians place great pride in their sportsmanship and the athletic prowess of its sporting team. While most of us couldn’t hit a ball straight if our life depended on it, we’ll be damned if we don’t park our butts on the lounge room recliner, beer in hand, to critique the arch of the ball from What’s-His-Name to his team mates. You’re not a Real Australian unless you’ve yelled insults at the television at some point in your life.
Secondly, the Australian of the Year award. The award recognises the achievements of Australians across four different categories – Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year, and Australia’s Local Hero. While typically announced by the current Australian Prime Minister of the time, the Australian of the Year is actually determined by The National Australia Day Council Board. While it’s not specific as to what the award entails (Prize money? An Oscar’s-like trophy? Bragging rights?); it’s generally culturally and socially accepted within Australia that recipients are People to Watch Out For, and hold considerable sway within the community.
And then there’s the Triple J Hottest 100 Countdown – the actual reason we’re all excited for Australia Day. Triple J is an indie radio station in Australia, supported by the government-owned media corporation, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). Every year Australians are invited to vote for what they thought were the real bangers of 2016. The results are then announced in the form of a countdown, starting from 100 to reveal the best of the best songs of 2016 in the late afternoon of Australia Day. The top ten are usually a subject of contention for at least a week in the aftermath of the Hottest 100 Countdown, and spawns a pretty popular CD collating those highly rated tracks.
And so those three events highlight three different, main segments of the Australian population. Your identity is determined by what you look forward to the most on Australia Day – are you a sports fanatic, a politics buff, or part of the youth/hipster culture in Australia? Australia Day reveals all.
The When and the Where of Australia Day
Now, these may seem like simple concepts with a quick Google search. Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th of January every year, across Australia. But, that’s just on the surface level.
Depending on who you are may depend on where specifically you’d celebrate Australia Day. We’ve already discussed the likelihood of someone being glued to the television or the radio of Australia Day. Since the 26th of January is in the height of the Australian summer, most would prefer to do those things in the comfort of air conditioning, or beside a pool. Or, maybe at the beach.
The reason for this is that the 26th of January isn’t just any old date. It’s the same day that Australia began being colonised by the British – or, as history books would call it, the day Captain Cook landed in Australia in 1788.
Therefore, this date also signifies the beginning of the government-endorsed pain and torture and genocide of the Australian Indigenous peoples. For some, Australia Day is known as Invasion Day, and it is a time to protest.
Now, at the risk of placing my own opinion in a piece around the issue like I did here, while I can list more constructive ways to tackle the Australia Day controversy, I can also list a good 364 alternatives to the current date that Australia Day is currently celebrated. I also don’t think that changing the date we celebrate Australia Day is going to magically solve the grave issues that the Indigenous people of Australia face – but it would be a start towards recognising their history and their current plight. Because Australia Day should not be a day for pain.
Why do we Celebrate Australia Day?
Which brings me to this – why do we celebrate Australia Day?
At the core of it, Australia Day is about celebrating Australia’s people – its Indigenous ancestry, its immigrant population, and its convict descendants. Australia is renowned for being such a melting pot of cultures, it would be remiss to ignore Australia’s multiculturalism on the very day we celebrate it as a nation.
Having such a mixed and varied population, it would also seem unjust to ignore a culturally significant segment of that population. Australia Day is a time to appreciate the fact that we really are “the lucky country”. We are home to the most liveable city in the world, we have such accessible health care, we have the political freedom to burn our national flag as an emblem of protest, and we even have the gift of Shannon Noll: meme extraordinaire. The nature of Australia Day – the spirit of it – is far removed from the actual date it signifies. Why not reconsider when it is celebrated?
But, I’ll leave you to make up your own mind – or challenge me on it. Share your thoughts about Australia Day in the comments section below!
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