Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What is Australia Day for?

According to the Australia Day website, it is a day where “we come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian.”
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If you don’t agree that this is what a national day should strive to do, then you can probably just stop reading here.

If, however, you do think this is what a national day should represent then, whether or not you want to leave Australia Day on the 26th of January, you are invited to stay and continue reading.

Personally, I don’t see how anyone could think that the 26th of January would ever ‘bring everyone together’, or how it celebrates what’s great about Australia, or being Australian… I just don’t see it.

I think it’s great that Australia is home to some of the oldest living cultures on Earth.

I think it’s great that through years of struggling we have some (albeit not enough) hard won rights for people the introduced laws of this country were never intended to protect.

I think it’s great that we live in a country that has some of the most amazing animals and landscapes on the planet (for now at least).

I think it’s great that Australia no longer has the White Australia Policy, at least not in its legislation. 

I think it’s great that more and more Australians are becoming confident enough to stand up to racism in public.

Seriously, great stuff, well done to everyone involved in all that.

None of this has much to do with the 26th of January 1788 though.

The 26th January 1788 is the day the British Empire moved in and began doing what it is does best. Expanding its empire at the expense of everyone else, including its own people.

And even if you think that the British Empire and its colonial rule are great, I still don’t think you can make much of an argument that this date will ever inspire us all to “come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian.”

It celebrates that Australia was originally intended to be a Whites only affair, and that many people today still adhere to this philosophy. (This is despite the fact that there were at least 11 black people who came on the First Fleet, because they have been actively written out of the national narrative, but that's another story).

The 26th of January is Australia’s oldest Public Holiday, beginning in 1818 but called First Landing Day or Foundation Day, and as we had the White Australia Policy from 1901 through to 1963, it has only had about 52 years out of 197 where it was not so overtly a celebration of ‘White Power’ and colonial expansion. And since we still have politicians talking about there being ‘nothing but bush’ before 1788, and wanting to celebrate our ‘superior Western culture’, it is fair to say that we probably haven’t moved as far away from that history as we might sometimes like to pretend.

The recent knighthood of Prince Phillip was not just a stark reminder of how British our current PM is, it was a reminder of just how British Australia still is, or has the capacity to be.

So, if we want to celebrate Empire, and colonialism, then okay, the 26th of January is a great choice.

If, however, that isn’t what we are celebrating then I’d like to throw the conversation up for debate about who we are, who we want to be, and what we want Australia to stand for.

A place where there is a fair go for all, or a place where if your skin ain’t fair, you got to go?

A multicultural melting pot, or a Whites only nation defending itself from the ‘onslaught’ of other races?

A place that sticks up for the oppressed, or a place that oppresses them?

Sure, we could just pretend to be one while doing the other. I mean, that seems to be working pretty well for a lot of Australians. They get to benefit from atrocities without any of those nasty bad feelings about committing them or having them committed in their name.

But I take being Australian a bit more seriously than that. I am outraged at what has been, and continues to be, committed in my name as an Australian citizen by our governments. (Settle down Tony haters, I said governments, not government. Plural. None of this starts and stops with Tone.) 

Personally, I think the day we ended the White Australia Policy better represents the Australia I love than the day it began.

The day we first gave land back to Aboriginal people better represents the Australia I want to live in than the day it was first stolen.

Even when I think about my white ancestors, I think the day we forced England to stop using Australia as a penal colony is a better reason to celebrate than the day they started sending convicts here.

I think it’s also important to stop and ask, ‘Do we even need a national day?’… Apart from the fact that everyone else seems to have one, what’s the point?

If it is a day to reflect on where we have come from, where we are, and where we are going as a nation, then okay, I can possibly get on board with such a concept.

If it is simply a day to pretend that we are something we are not, then I think we could, and should, probably do without it.

I think possibly the biggest challenge we face when we look through our history books for a day that unites us as one is the simple fact that we have never been united as one. Not racially, culturally, socially, or in any other meaningful sense.

You can’t find a historical event to celebrate something that hasn't happened yet. It’s like trying to pick a birthday for a child that hasn’t even been conceived yet, let alone been born.

Perhaps instead of looking to our history books for a new day we need to look for our future instead, and strive to create a day, and a nation, that can work to unite us all as one, and that binds us together instead of drives us further apart. 

Why not start working on that today? 

NB: This probably won’t unite us all as one, but it certainly won’t hurt and would make an awesome difference... help Black Rainbow establish the Black Rainbow Living Well Foundation to support Indigenous LGBTI peeps.
support Indigenous LGBTI Australians in living well. - See more at:
support Indigenous LGBTI Australians in living well. - See more at:
support Indigenous LGBTI Australians in living well. - See more at:
support Indigenous LGBTI Australians in living well. - See more at:… just a thought.
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NB2: Sorry, nobody pays me for this stuff so I have to get in a few plugs wherever I can find room for them.

NB3: Follow @IndigenousX & @IndigenousXca and check out

Dear, ‘I Love Australia’ People, You’re Doing It Wrong.

Love, like Australia itself, is a vague concept at the best of times. Most people would likely be of the opinion, ‘it’s hard to define but you know it when you see it, and you miss it when it’s not there.’

And just as our concepts of both ‘Love’ and ‘Australia’ has inevitably changed over the past two centuries, our individual concepts of them change as we mature… or not.

I love Australia, I just hate racism. It is perfectly understandable how these two concepts can be confused if you think that the ‘I Love Australia’ crowd are the only ones who are the ‘real Australians’.

I remember when I was about 13 years old, and I came to school one day and realized there was a girl in my year who ‘loved’ me when I read ‘I Love Luke’ written on her arm in thick black texta. It was very cute, but I doubt either of us would look back on that today and say that it was really ‘love’. Infatuation perhaps, a crush definitely, maybe even ‘puppy love’. Whatever we call it, it was an emotion that our immature young minds struggled to adequately process, or to adequately express.  

This is basically the level of ‘love’ is see when I encounter the majority of people who either wear similarly simplistic slogans and symbols worn on shirts and hats, tattooed on arms and necks, or on bumper stickers on their cars.

I Love Australia

*The Southern Cross*

Australia: Love it or love it.

Fuck off we’re full.

We grew here, you flew here.

This is Australia, we eat meat pies, drink beer, and speaking fucking English.

Australia: Established 1788.

There are plenty more simple statements that are often expressed from people within these camps, though they perhaps lack the ‘charm’ of the above to sell enough tshirts or caps to justify being turned into products.

These include:

Get over the past.

It was two hundred years ago.

I didn’t kill anyone.

Why should I say sorry?

Where are you really from?

And many, many more.

Love is not simply the wearing of slogans on our sleeves. It is done through our thoughts and deeds, not our costumes.

The strength of your love is not best measured by the hate you show for those who have very good reason not to wear such superficial slogans.

Love does not grow in ignorance, animosity, and alcoholism. It stagnates, distorts, and becomes destructive.

Love is not celebrating the positives and denying that negatives exist, even as they continue to worsen. Love is for better or for worse. Love is an unconditional commitment through the good times and the bad.

Loving Australia is NOT a whites only affair. People loved this country for thousands of years before it was even called Australia. That love still exists today.

And not loving the invasion, dispossession, attempted genocide, and ongoing exploitation and oppression of those people is not the same as not loving this country.

This country that far too many people continue to live and die trying to protect.

It is because I love this country that I want to see justice served to those who are denied it. I want to see justice served to those who damage others by abusing Australian laws, international laws, and common human decency.

It is because I love this country, and its people, that I want to see less shock jocks and racist politicians exploiting and inciting the racism that still exists in the hearts of many for money and power.

It is because I love this country, and its people, that I want to see an end to the rampant abuses of police power, media power, political power, military power, and all the other powers that are used to benefit some at the expense of most. 

And I do not understand anyone older than 9 years old saying ‘Well, if you don’t love those things then why don’t you leave’… I always imagine it being said in the same childish tone as ‘If you love it so much then why don’t you marry it’.

It is not a rational thought.
It is a defense against rational thought.

Drinking beer, eating meat and speaking English don’t make you Australian.

Telling non-white people to fuck off back to their own countries isn’t love, it’s hypocritical bullshit. And if you don’t like it, fuck off back to England.

See? It doesn’t add much to the dialogue does it? That’s because superficial slogans are either intended to be conversation starters, or conversation closers.

Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land. That’s a great conversation starter because it raises questions, and because it doesn’t tell anyone to fuck off.

‘Fuck off’ is definitely not a great conversation starter. It is a conversation closer.  

That is why so many people push these particular slogans so strongly, because they know there is no logic behind them, and there is no love in what they represent. They play on the fear that if people ever move beyond flag capes and monosyllabic slogans they might actually start to see who really loves Australia, and who causes it harm.

This would mean not just supporting Aboriginal rights, but multiculturalism, diversity, disability rights, gender, sexuality, asylum seekers, and many, many other people and issues where we currently do not show the same levels of ‘love’ to our fellow Australians, or to those hoping to one day become Australians.

It means not just ignoring and shouting abuse at those who disagree, and not judging the merits of arguments solely on, ‘Are they saying nice things about [white] Australia?’

Love means holding yourself to a higher standard than that. A standard we are a long way from meeting.

It means enforcing justice even if it is a powerful person or company or institution that will be affected. Even if we really like them. Or if they look like us. Or they threaten to take all their money and take it overseas.

It means taking responsibility for what was, what is, and what will be. All of it.

“Why should I be sorry?”

For the same reasons you should be proud, because that’s what Loving Australia means. It means that Australia is a part of you, and that you are a part of Australia.

When Australia wins in sport, we win in sport. When Australia loses, we lose along with it. The same is true of all of our achievements and atrocities, our successes and out failures.  

That is what being Australian means, that is what love means.

We all know plenty of people who want to be there to bask in the limelight when we succeed, but are nowhere to be seen when there is trouble, or when there is work to be done. They are leeches, not lovers.

This is what I see when I look at the ‘I Love Australia’ crowd. They would rather pay $20 to wear that slogan on their chest than put in the work required to feel it in their hearts.

That love can’t be bought. It can’t be sold. It can only be earned, and it has to keep being earned every day.

So, to my dear “I Love Australia’ peeps, put down the beer bong, give yourselves an uppercut, take off the flag cape, roll up your sleeves, and starting earning your keep.

Get cracking.

Find out what happened on the ground beneath your feet over the past 227 years. Who are the local mob who lived there? Do they still live there? How are they living now? What happened between 1788 and today that shaped it? What language/s do/did they speak? What happened to them? Learn some of the words if you can, even it is just how to say ‘hello’.

Stick up for people when they are copping hell for no reason. Call for justice when it is being denied.

Hold yourselves, and our nation, to a higher standard.

That is what it takes to love Australia.

That is what it takes to build a great nation.

A nation strong enough within itself to understand that we can either be a racist white country that talks about ‘nothing but bush’ and ‘superior Western cultures’ or we can be a country that talks about ‘harmonious multiculturalism’, but we can’t just pretend to be one whenever it is convenient while still behaving like the other.

A nation that recognises it is made up of many other nations that still exist. That never ceded Sovereignty.

A nation that can sing its own anthem without feeling shame at just how brutally untrue it once was, and has once again become.

A nation that will still be here for future generations to come.

If you’re going to love this country, love it right.