Today we celebrate Australia Day in beautiful Down Under. People are off, people are happy, people celebrate and people get drunk. But there is also a group of people who struggles with the fact that Australia Day or much more the date Australia Day is celebrated on this specific day.
Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. In present-day Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community
Over the last couple of days leading up to Australia Day there were many discussions about the pros and cons of celebrating this special day. People who struggle with it have a great point. They say that we celebrate the fact that land was taken, that land and people were conquered. In regards to the Aboriginal and Torres Straight people’s history this had a massive impact on them and their culture. The devastation for them must have been immense.
The way they lived with the land and with their rituals their culture was not understood by the strangers that arrived. Given the fact that those strangers also were not the kindest individuals in general as the United Kingdom sent their convicts to Australia, the way the natives were treated must have been shocking. Suddenly their spiritual sites were no longer holy. They were forced to wear cloths, forced to eat what the conquerors decided they must eat, forced to learn a religion that was so strange to them.
What followed after the arriving of the First Fleet was not a walk in the park for the natives. They were hunted they were enslaved they were treated badly, missionaries messed with them. Families were destroyed, people got hurt.
So for them celebrating this day very clearly doesn’t make sense.
To be honest this year is actually the first year I even look at this in such a way. Before it was about celebrating the National Day. Just like I would in Switzerland. Without any thought about what it means for people whose ancestors suffered under the conquerors. For people who still have to fight for their rights. People whose land has been taken and never returned.
But then there is the part in me that wants to celebrate Australia Day. Not because of it being the day the First Fleet arrived. Not because a new land was discovered and conquered. Not because people were moved down here and had to make a new living, had to survive. I will celebrate Australia Day with keeping those in mind that feel there is nothing to celebrate about it.
I want to celebrate Australia Day because for me it’s about celebrating a beautiful country. A diverse country. A young country that is still defining itself. It’s about celebrating its heroes, its beauty and its opportunities. It’s about celebrating the chances it offers me and my family, the home it gives us, the adventures it provides us with. It’s about its people. All of them. Aboriginals, Torres Straight people and all the other people from all different cultures. It’s about celebrating its “she’ll be right” attitude, the mate-shift. I will celebrate Australia Day because I simply love Australia.