I celebrate Australia Day because it’s who I am. I am Australian. My wife and kids are Australian. My neighbours, either side of my home and about 25 million more are Australian. These people share a common destiny with me and we’re in this together. I care about other nations, but my duty is to my nation first.
We also share a common history. Whether we’ve been here for centuries or weeks, being Australian is to join in a journey which has many fellow travellers with diverse stories of how they found themselves on this journey. Some have no record of their ancestors ever being anywhere else, most were born here, many chose to be here.
I love our cultural identity, something all too often diluted and neglected. We are forged from British civilisation: a Westminster style of government, common English language, Christian values and appreciation of natural law and love for our neighbours in the belief that every person is created in the image of God: equal to ourselves.
It was the English that brought Christianity to much of the South Pacific and the world, ending the global slave trade, cannibalism, infanticide and many other barbaric practices widely accepted before English colonisation. English education and civil advances increased native populations, lifespans and lifestyles. They brought roads, schools and hospitals, democratic government and justice to many isolated societies being left far behind a developing world.
Too often the cynical critics of our proud culture insist the shortcomings of eighteenth and nineteenth century totally eclipse all the advances and achievements we, Australians, accomplished. They refuse to see anything else or to allow anyone else to be positive or patriotic. There is no one denying or celebrating our ancestors’ failures. Horrible failures mar the history of every great effort, and pre-settlement, this divided continent was no exception.
Who we are has been honed by centuries of harsh conditions: relentless droughts, raging bushfires, fierce floods – and then repeated. Any Aussie who’s not been coddled in a city since birth has been toughened to simply make the best of the cards we’re dealt. We’ve developed a work-ethic determined to prosper in unpredictable wilderness while loving its unforgiving wildness.
Australians have an inherent distrust of authority like politicians, government. We prefer self-reliance: just leave us alone. It’s not that we don’t know we need some government, but we have a code that says we prefer to do mateship our way, not the way some stuffed suit a thousand miles away thinks we should. If some bloke comes the raw prawn he’ll get pulled into line real quick, no need to get the government involved.
I love our anti-PC sense of humour: a dry, sardonic wit that sounds startlingly serious to other cultures but ironically expresses an underlying affection and acceptance for our mates. We’re overly familiar with strangers with few of the formal sensibilities which are common to our British and American cousins.
I love that every nationality is welcome here, as long as they’re willing to have a go and chip in. We have a low tolerance for bludgers, but we’ll always lend a mate a hand when he’s in need.
Despite the diversity in paths that lead us here, our common wealth is that we share one flag we fight for, one anthem, one language, and one future. It is despite, not because of, our failures, that we have grown to become a destination of choice for those fleeing nations plunged into violence and chaos. Better men prevailed over the occasional ugliness of our past, and still do. It is what we are building together that we celebrate, so don’t get distracted by the detractors. Celebrating our journey is as much about our determination to do better with each generation as it is about our appreciation of how far we’ve come.
I am, you are, we are Australian. That’s why I celebrate Australia Day.
Dave Pellowe is a speaker, writer and political commentator and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.
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