Raise your glasses to Australia -
Its forests, surf and sun,
Music, art and bar-b-ques,
Its sport and having fun.
Raise them to its people -
Mates and those not met -
Folk from many nations
Who've come to work and set
This country above others:
Prosperous, friendly, fair -
A land of peace and harmony
(True wealth beyond compare).
Although our kin weren't born here
Our hearts have found their home
In towns and in the Outback -
No matter where we roam.
On Australia Day let's celebrate,
Aborigines as well,
This land with power mysterious
That holds us in its spell.
Peter E Taylor 2010
I was born in England, have lived in Australia for 25 years and know that if I ever reside anywhere else, I will always want to return to Australia. I love its people from all backgrounds. Mateship. Simple pleasures. Creative talents. Aspirations and caring. But it is a spiritual as well as physical home. I hope I am not alone in feeling that it is really ‘the power of the land to claim us as its own’ that we celebrate on Australia Day – the power of Earth Mother ownership of us that Aboriginal people have appreciated for thousands of years.
While I understand thoughts of Australia Day celebrating British settlement will offend those of Aboriginal descent who reflect upon unsavory and negative experiences settlement has heaped on individuals, tribes and cultures, as far as I understand, the first celebrations were in fact recognition by transported convicts, ex convicts and early settlers that they were delighted to be Australian. That they belonged to the land.
Is it therefore possible that we whose forefathers were born overseas and people with Aboriginal ancestry can celebrate our attachment to the land, as one, on Australia Day?
If the land owns us, and not the other way round; if we believe the land is important and influential in our lives, we obviously have a duty to treasure and protect it. Our children have to feel attachment. Will those in cities who spend their childhood days permanently wired to games consoles or computers develop the same love of the land as those who experience dirt between their toes? Will they grow to feel ‘as Australian’?
There is a high probability that those who were born afar but have happy memories of childhood, teenage and early adult years exploring the countryside and/or city alleyways at night as well as in the daytime, in the land of their birth, will always feel some attachment to that place. This is possibly why many Australians choose to maintain dual Nationality. How many Australians of mature years, who were born here and have similar memories, could move to India and call themselves truly ‘Indian’, or to Japan and declare themselves ‘Japanese’ after a short number of years, if ever?
With councils’ focus on building rather that preserving what tiny remnants of bushland exist for childen to explore in cities and towns; with our love of safe, crack and litigation free walking and cycling tracks through parks; our insistence that creek-beds and sides are sterile and concreted instead of encouraging connection with the soil and nature, I fear we do our children and Australia a disservice. Creativity enhanced and inspired by adventure is minimized. If there is a single place in our country where, through fear, we would be reluctant for our children to play or explore unsupervised for hours at any time, we have a right to expect at least attempted remedial action. Without fighting for and ensuring freedom to fully experience and become part our land, we diminish the nature of Australia.
Can this Australia Day, therefore, be a united celebration of the land to an extent that government agencies, as well as individuals, will pour every effort into caring for our environment, and enhancing freedom and safety for all in our beloved nation?