AT this time of year millions of Australians living at home, and abroad, unleash a peculiar brand of patriotism.
The flag is worn as a cape, we make judgements about a person’s worthiness as a member of our nation based on their capacity to swill beer and eat meat, and we chant things like “Aussie” and “Oi” in call and response fashion.
We do this while hitting the beach or the backyard with a big mob of our mates, and an esky, and we listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown. Because it’d be un-Australian not to.
After more than 200 years since the first non-Indigenous inhabitation of this place, and the ebb and flow of migration to our nation, the only thing we can really figure out as a common bond is booze and a barbeque. And even that is a stretch, because not all of us think that cans of beer and cheap sausages are a good idea.
Year after year the question of what being Australian really means is raised, and year after year we make little progress on finding an answer. Is being Australian defined by citizenship, is it defined by being Indigenous, is it defined by some supposed shared values?
With so many different cultural, racial, religious, political backgrounds, do we actually really share anything in common? Is chest-thumping allegiance to the Union Jack and Southern Cross more Australian than branding the day Invasion Day and instead calling on the Indigenous flag to be the one we fly-high? Do we really even need to compare these ideas of Australianess?
For as long as 26 January remains the day chosen to mark our celebration of nation, these conflicted questions of identity will continue. After all, the date commemorates the arrival in 1788 of the First Fleet, carrying convicts and colonisers from Great Britain. What followed were the darkest years in Australia’s history with Indigenous children stolen, women raped and men killed.
In the years since those first years, “rights” have been “granted” but the struggle for autonomy and equality continues for Aboriginal Australians. All the while cultural genocide goes on as sacred lands are destroyed by mining, artifacts destroyed to make way for big developments, and white politicians continue to make laws that discriminate against Indigenous communities – the ongoing intervention in the Northern Territory is an obvious example.
And so invasion and survival is what’s called to mind for so many Indigenous Australians each “Australia Day”. With this in mind, suddenly the 26 January brand of celebration of Australianism becomes very narrow, and dangerously close to a racist affront to those who don’t feel it is appropriate to partake in a national party on such a date.
We need to make way for an inclusive celebration of our nation: 26 January needs to be retired, along with adherence to the monarchy and the inclusion of the Union Jack in the corner of our national flag.
There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the nation we are building together, and there are many great things about Australia today, but our colonial past and monarchical leftovers do not deserve the national holiday we continue to reward them.