Back in January, we celebrated our third Australia Day in London. It was a huge surprise for us considering we thought that we would be back in Australia and settling down to married life by now – you know with a house, a family car and a maybe even a baby on the way.
Instead, we were faced with the decision of how bogan to let our Aussie Day be. Would we be downing Bundy Rums and Jumbuck’s Pies at The Church? Should we scoff some Pizza Shapes and scull Tooheys Extra Drys to ‘Home Among The Gum Trees’ at Infernos? What about the party at Bloomsbury Bowling or the Walkabout? Perhaps we should spend a messy day at one of the other numerous pubs and venues across London that enable and encourage us to celebrate our heritage in the most ‘Aussie’ (bogan) way possible: sculling drinks while scoffing pies, listening to last year’s Triple J Hottest 100, chanting Aussie classics and using our Australian flags as superhero capes?
I had my hopes up that we would be invited to the BBQ at Richie Benaud’s house, but it wasn’t to be. We settled for huddling around the warmth of a BBQ in the back garden with a mix of fellow Aussies, Kiwis, a token Frenchie and a few Brits. We taught them how to eat a sausage in bread (no need for plates here!) and feasted on homemade ANZAC Biscuits, lamingtons and fairy bread.
Isn’t it amazing that we have the freedom to do that? Isn’t it incredible that we were free to celebrate our national day, in a country on the other side of the world, in the way that we want?
Last year, I wrote: “For me, Australia Day is a time for reflection on our history as well as creating a history that we can be proud of. We are not a ‘young country’ and I respectfully recognise the hardships and wrongdoings that were pushed on our Indigenous by generations past. But I do celebrate our current achievements and values that we can pass down to future generations in the hope that they will do better.”
I stand by that statement, but in light of recent heinous events that have occurred throughout the world, this year I am putting my words into action to help create a history, and a country, I can be proud of.
In April 2013 we visited Egypt, two years after the revolution that ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule and only months before Egypt’s first freely elected president was overthrown. The most memorable part of our tour wasn’t the amazing historical sites, it was speaking with our local guide, Sam. He was a proud Egyptian man and grateful that he was living in a time in Egypt’s history when he could say out-loud that he disliked his president and didn’t fear for his life.
While Egypt is still in political and economic turmoil, and it could be for many decades to come, the uprising was a (small) step in shrinking repressive regimes and the first small step towards freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech, and freedom in general, is something I think we can sometimes take for granted in Australia. We celebrate our national day in the name of freedom, often forgetting that there are people in our past that had their freedom stolen away from them and there are people in our present that are still not free.
The freedom of our people and our freedom of speech are values for which we have come to expect but often forget to be thankful for. We seem to have become more demanding, expecting that we deserve good things and benefits without the need to work for them. We have become less tolerant; shouting down other cultures, religions and minorities by resisting them and openly opposing them for being different. We shame, demoralise and criticize what we don’t like and declare that we have the right to do so because we have freedom of speech. But by letting hatred, anger and distrust spread through our ranks we are becoming less free. What is the point in using your freedom to take away or denounce someone else’s?
In light of recent tragic events around the world, it is more important than ever that we celebrate our freedom by enabling others, when we can, to live freely too. But a good place to start is in our own country.
We can make a difference in a small way by keeping the peace better between each other. We live in a democracy where we can vote and campaign for or against our politicians for change. We live in a time where social media can be use positively and hashtag campaigns such as #iwillridewithyou and #BringBackOurGirls have become beacons of hope and examples of standing by one another. We live in a world where a thank you note, a thoughtful gesture or a kindly spoken word from a stranger, are rarely given but always gratefully received.
So, this year I am celebrating my freedom by making a promise to think about how my own actions and the things I say can affect the freedom of others. I started by truly thinking about how I can help when I cast my vote in my state’s election. I will actively encourage others to live freely and let them know that they can be themselves around me.
By being a little nicer to one another and by allowing others to freely express their views, opinions, religions and their own culture freely, we can continue to build a better, truly free country.
Also read by Jacqui Moroney:
Read more of Jacquie’s Honeymooning Nomad series about life as an Aussie expat and visit her website www.neverendinghoneymoon.net