Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia Day, 2007

Just back from our 'Australia Day' outing in our local shire, at our common haunt for the day, the little tourist-y village of Berrima.

Had an excellent day out, and what I most enjoy about Australia Day in general, not just this one, is the great sense of community it fosters. Ours is a country town, in what we call a 'regional' shire (in that we are close to a major city - Sydney - and somewhat urban in outlook - but also somewhat 'country as well). A lot of folk (me included) in this area work in the city, but commute from the place they choose to live, or some have a weekend retreat here, and a place in the city also.

We had sausage sandwiches courtesy of the local Rotary club (a chance at fundraising for them - very much an institution amongst many Aussie voluntary organisations is the sausage sizzle and drinks and steak sandwich booth). Great coffee from one of several boutique coffee stands, lots of market stalls, and we had a parade.

Many would view our parade as quaint, but I think it's great. we had people in period costume, restored vintage cars and tractors, old machinery, the local cadets and pipe bands, and, not least, the local emergency services were there in force. (The Rural Fire Service, AKA the Bushfire brigades, the SES - the State Emergency Service - sort of a FEMA). That gives the community a chance to show their appreciation to these good people - volunteers - there is no pay involved for their often quite dangerous and unpleasant community service. It gives us a chance to say 'Thanks' and for them to get a little bit of a clap and cheer from their community. God knows they get little else for their efforts beside a warm fuzzy feeling they are doing the good thing.

Today is also a good time to reflect on what we have. To be born, or become, an Aussie, I believe, is to win big in life's lottery, especially when you see what is happening in the rest of the world.

The First Fleet was a crazy social experiment. Yes, there were convicts (many transported for petty crimes - serious ones invited the death sentence back then), also soldiers, sailors, administrators. And one great gift - English law and governance and traditions of how society can be best organised - those poor souls had precious little else given to them.
Cast out onto those 'Fatal Shores', the driest continent, the one place 'least like home' , they had no choice but to work hard, co-operate, struggle, endure - or perish. And look what they and their successors have achieved in a little over 200 years! - a mere blink in terms of human history.

I believe that if you look at the 20th century 'til now, in the whole world, but 6 - six! - countries have remained independent and universally free for those 100 or so years - Canada, NZ, USA, Switzerland, Iceland - and Australia. (The UK doesn't make the list because elections were not held during WW2, nor did Sth Africa and other places have unviversal suffrage). Not many countries had a worse start, most had more to build up with and from. Many these days have the free gift of oil wealth. Few countries had so many hardships to overcome, but they did, and have given us one of the most prosperous, free, and happy societies on the face of this earth. Australia is always near the top of the HDI - the Human Development Index. We can be very proud of our country, and we should be mindful, and thankful, for what our forebears have passed on to us.

(And just to show that a great day out was had by more of the friendly locals (From Andrew Bolt via Tim Blair);

1 Comments:

Anonymous Phil said...

It's interesting to see what a new arrival thinks of how we 'do' Oz Day;

http://www.news.com.au/sundaytelegraph/opinion/story/0,,21154350-5001031,00.html

Maxine Frith is a new arrival from the UK.

"THE first words I heard over the loudspeakers after landing at Sydney airport a week ago were "Welcome home"...".

"...I was blown away by Australia Day - by the sheer exuberance of a country coming together to unashamedly celebrate its existence.

Walking through the city centre towards Circular Quay, we passed a Chinese family, the little girl proudly sporting an Australian flag on each cheek.

At the ferry terminal, a gaggle of teenage boys were chatting in Italian, all of them draped in the flag, while alongside them a couple of impeccably dressed women pensioners each had a little flag poking out of their handbags.

In Balmain, where we were house-hunting, we stopped off for a drink and the man in the bar raised his glass to wish us a "Happy Australia Day''.

And at the house we went to look at, a framed certificate of Australian citizenship was displayed in prime position on the living room wall..."

"...There is nothing like Australia Day in Britain...".

"...As a newly arrived immigrant, the flagwaving and wearing, the parties and the celebrating on Australia Day were not intimidating or boorish - they were an inspiration...".

For my part, I say to those who come here for opportunity, and a chance at getting ahead in return for hard work, something better for your kids, to become one of us - what used to be called a 'New Australian', you are very welcome.

(For those who want to import their old hatreds, to try and impose on us system(s) which they clearly had reasons to leave - then I am not so welcoming. Choose to come here, then learn our language and at least try to come to terms with our culture, legal system, and ways. We are happy with our ways - if you aren't, then this is not the place for you).

Sunday, February 04, 2007 10:32:00 am  

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