Apparently, I’m “Un-Australian”..

..for seriously considering the argument that Australia might be better served by changing the date that we celebrate Australia Day.  As detailed in this news article 26th of January commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney and subsequent settlement of NSW.  Furthermore, Australia did not even exist as a country until January 1, 1901 when Federation occurred. Prior to this time Australia was a series of separate colonies.  This is quite apart from the fact that to the Aboriginals the 26th of January represents ‘Invasion Day’.  Upon reading the comments thread connected to the article it became apparent that any one who dares to consider the argument for changing the date is ‘Un-Australia’.  So although giving people a ‘fair go’ is consider to be the ultimate Australian quality, this only applies to those that don’t challenge the status quo.

To be fair, some on the comments thread, were for the idea:

I, for one, think that’s a bloody good idea, and I don’t think that Indigenous Aussies can find anything celebrate about Jan 26, so let’s find a better date to celebrate as Australia Day. It’s a celebration, not a test, of “Australianness”.

While many reacted with a visceral anger at the very suggestion:

Just a quick suggestion, Time [sic] for you, your apologist mates and those that just don’t qant [sic] to get it. It’s 2009, time to build a ladder and get over it. Australia Day is Australia Day. Join in or shut up. Invasion day is a myth brought about by the guilt industry of the last century. Progress to the 21st century. We have more important things to deal with.

And (among other lovely comments):

What a lot of garbage, is “The Professor” now saying that each State and Territory should celebrate on a different day because the arrival of the British in Eastern Australia on January 26 “is not relevant to the Territorians”. The British did not land in WA or SA or QLD on this Day, but they did commence to establish a Great Country on that day and anyone who is proud enough to call themselves AUSTRALIAN should be proud enough to celebrate on January 26.

Like migrants, the indegenious [sic] take the benefits provided to Australians, if they don’t want to be Australian, give up the benefits.

(Benefits such as poverty and discrimination ‘cos we’ve given them so much haven’t we?)  Speaking of indigenous Australians Mick Dodson has been named Australian of the Year (in a gesture that seems to indicate that the Rudd govt intends to act upon the rhetoric expressed in the ‘Sorry Day’ speech.  This seems to be a real out reach to the Aboriginal people and an action that I could not imagine the Howard govt making ever.  Hopefully we’ll be seeing more concrete actions in this area).  Professor Mick Dodson had to consider whether he wanted to accept the award, given what Australia Day means to his people.

But he says accepting the award will help him advocate for human rights in Australia.

“It’s a humbling thing, but I too share the concerns of my Indigenous brother and sisters about the date, and I talked long and hard with my family about this and we decided it was in the best interests that I accept the nomination,” he said.

Professor Dodson says he hopes to build Australians’ understanding of what it means to protect the rights and human dignity of all Australians.

The way I think that it could be construed is that if Australia Day is not a celebration of the specific events of Jan 26 1788, then why not have it on another day? 26th of January has long been Australia Day, but it is only since 1988 that it has been a permanent public holiday.  Prior to that the actual holiday was moveable, like Easter, and always occurred on the last weekend in January – thus there was always an Australia Day long weekend even when 26th (Australia Day) occurred no where near the weekend.

I am going to be honest, by standard measure it could be argued that I really am ‘Un-Australian’.  I won’t be celebrating tomorrow by drinking beers and enjoying a day off (a re-occurring motif in the aforementioned comments thread).  I wish that I was celebrating like this: as it looks like fun, but in reality I’ll probably do some studying, maybe some gardening and a bit of housework.

Is it just me or does anyone else find the increasing ubiquity of the symbol of the southern cross (tattoos, stickers on cars) and the aussie flag a little troubling?  Anyhow if you want to know how Australian you are,  you can always take the Facebook test.

So how are you spending Australia Day?

Update: Bonus Australia Day Links

Australia Day: “Speak English!” @ Hoyden About Town

Happy Australia Day @ Cafe Grendel

Invasion Day @ the-paris-site


31 comments on “Apparently, I’m “Un-Australian”..

  1. I’m not going to be doing anything either. Like I want to put myself in a situation where I go to the city and spend my evening with drunken people all around me. That’s what I want to do!

    It seems to me the last two commenters you quoted are in some kind of denial. Basically, they respond with “Either you’re apart of the solution or you’re apart of the problem.” Trouble is, they are the ones deciding what’s the problem and what’s the solution. Bigots always respond like that.

  2. lauredhel says:

    “Just a quick suggestion, Time [sic] for you, your apologist mates and those that just don’t qant [sic] to get it. It’s 2009, time to build a ladder and get over it. Australia Day is Australia Day. Join in or shut up. Invasion day is a myth brought about by the guilt industry of the last century. Progress to the 21st century. We have more important things to deal with.”

    That word. I do not think it means what she thinks it means.

    I know what you mean about the flag. Since the savage, racist violence at Cronulla and at other nationalistic events, ostentatious flag display by individuals has taken on more and more sinister connotations for me. Today, we saw quite a few cars with little Australian flags on white plastic poles affixed to them, and, frankly, for me it felt like those people were people to beware of. Maybe they are harmless. Maybe they’re the trumped-up white supremacists who go around challenging people who don’t “look Australian enough” to prove themselves. There’s no way to know.

    Jingoism is some scary stuff.

  3. Sam The Dog says:

    That would be January 1, 1901.

  4. LuLi says:

    I’m spending mine hung over, with red powerade and maccas. No bbqs for me! I think the aus flags are pretty bad, they never used to be, but this “patriotic” exclusive Aus-only attitude has been circulating for a few yrs and the symbol has lost its innocence. To me its more about anglo-pride than australia the country.

  5. rayedish says:

    Wendy I agree. Drunkenness is one of those states that one has to be in to enjoy – its really little fun from the outside, so unless you want to be a drunk yobbo with the others its best to avoid the scene altogether.

    Lauredhel I think jingoism is scary and on the rise, and when you see a Falcon with a plastic flag hanging out the window its hard to know whether its a family getting into the ‘spirit’ of things, or over enthusiastic thugs who are going to use the occasion to test others level of ‘Australianness’. I’m also puzzled as to what the ‘spirit’ of the day is anyway. What mystical ‘Australian’ values are we supposed to be buying into, *ahem* celebrating?

    Sam You are correct, bonus points to you for picking up my typo, it shall be amended.

    LuLi – I know the ‘flag waving’ phenomena is on the rise, but I ‘m not too sure that its purely anglo pride. Around my neck of the woods I’ve seen a few guys of islander descent sporting a southern cross tats. While I certainly agree that anglo pride is part of it I don’t think they’re the only segment of the population participating in this visible display of aussieness.

  6. […] also: “Apparently, I’m “Un-Australian”” at the Radical Radish. And feel free to link your favourite Australia Day blog posts […]

  7. Oz Ozzie says:

    ahh, I’m confused. What have indigenous people got to do with it? Anyway, I thought Australia was a celebration of how the soldiers and convicts shared the female convicts around that first night. How can we change the date?

    • rayedish says:

      Oz Ozzie – that interpretation of the origins of Australia Day goes some way to explaining why some sections of the community celebrate Aust.Day the way that they do.

  8. Oz Ozzie says:

    A more serious comment: I too have seen flag waving getting more common; I believe that partly it is an attempt by the ordinary common Australian to retake the flag from the jingoists.

    • rayedish says:

      Oz Ozzie – You could be right about that, or it could simply be the herd mentality. It is hard to guess at people’s motivations for flag waving/wearing/car adorning behaviour but it does seem to be both more ubiquitous and more ostentatious then I can ever remember it being.

  9. Aphie says:

    The Wicked Fairy and I automatically distrust anyone displaying a southern cross, these days. It always seems to be decidedly white Australians doing it, usually young ones, mostly male.

    This year we had a very quiet backyard BBQ with our Tiny Tyrant, the housemate, his sister, brother in law, and their munchkin.
    In the car on the way over I was hatching plans to form a tradition whereby we host a multicultural BBQ for friends and acquaintances next year, where we can invite everyone to bring pics and stories about their ancestors to share and we can all mark out on a map the various places our families came from. If I can swing it I’d like to do a mass donation to one of the groups doing work in the Indigenous communities either in the north or maybe closer to home, since our friends are all fairly affluent and middle-class.
    It’s tokenism, but I’d like to hope we could gently nudge some of our wider circle into a more tolerant ad understanding mindset, by way of ripple effect.

  10. Helen says:

    When I was looking up the Southern Cross Soldiers because of the Northcote shooting (brain bleach required), I saw some “calls to arms” by yobbos to other yobbos to rally around Australia day and bash people of non anglo saxon or european descent. I’m afraid there may be outbreaks of something or other but so far nothing. Daughter went out to a party but fortunately has come home early as it wasn’t a good one!

    The fireworks have just gone off in the city so if there’s to be trouble it will probably be in the next few hours.

    Apparently Supre is selling a lot of Aus flag themed clothing. (shudder)

  11. A great post. Probably the best I have read so far to do with Australia Day. I was very ‘Un Australian’ and worked all day. I totally agree with your comment about having a ‘fair go’ but only if it does not upset the status quo. This is so true…I also saw so many plastic flags today…..more landfill huh.

  12. blue milk says:

    Great post, nice to know we weren’t alone today in our views.

  13. anna says:

    I have similar issues with the ostentatious (almost aggressive?) display of the flag everywhere, and I also have a really deep seated problem with people wearing the Australian flag around their neck- as a former Scout, where you are taught that the flag is sacred and should never touch the ground, I find it disrespectful and ignorant. I don’t have a problem with the emblem of the flag on shirts, temporary tattoo’s etc… however a flag itself should be treated with respect.

  14. rayedish says:

    Helen, I have heard on the news this morning about several brawls and incidents around Sydney that marred the celebrations, but its hard to know from the brevity of the reports what was really going on. It sounded more like the trouble you get with too many drunks in the one area, though, not the ‘call to arms’ type stuff you referred to. Fortunately it doesn’t sound like that went anywhere. *shudder*

    Anna – I agree with you about the respect for the flag. When you see some guy wearing the flag like a nappy it just doesn’t seem right!

  15. steph says:

    I celebrated Australia Day by celebrating the first day of Chinese New Year and by eating lamingtons. I’m happy to celebrate being Australian, I can deal with that, but the crass display of parochial, ostentacious flag waving really worries me, and I wasn’t going to leave my house.

  16. kasphar says:

    So what do you think about groups in Gaza marching and waving the Palestinian flag and calling for the death of all Israelis and the US. Is that form of patriotism/jingoism any different (and they don’t even drink!)?

    • rayedish says:

      Kasphar, The fact that I don’t approve of drunken louts draping themselves in flags and using Australia Day as a excuse to attack people on the basis of race, hardly implies that I am going to approve of any other form of patriotism/jingoism. Furthermore while I do not condone any racial group calling for the death of any other group I do think that the Palestinian people have a hell of a lot more to complain about than your average Australian disaffected youth. A fight for your very survival and that of your people is a little different to a case of suburban teenage angst.

  17. kasphar says:

    Totally agree. Just pointing out that aggressive flag waving may be indicative of many things, both real and perceived.

    • rayedish says:

      ‘aggressive flag waving may be indicative of many things, both real and perceived.’
      nice to see that we are in furious agreement!

  18. kasphar says:

    I was never ‘furious’. Just pointing out that sometimes those who are not listened to, who are disempowered, or who feel abandoned, are apt to use national symbols to rally around and channel their ‘angst’, whether they be Palestinians, Chinese or ‘your average Australian disaffected youth’.

  19. Lauredhel says:

    I’m not at all convinced that these are disempowered, abandoned youth we’re talking about in the Australian example. The phenomenon seems heavily dominated by white able-bodied-appearing heterosexist males, by far the most privileged group in this country.

    They may or may not possess class privilege (I don’t think there’s a whole lot of consistency there), however their anger and intimidation is not directed against rich folk, but against those less powerful – people of colour, refugees, and sometimes women.

    This isn’t a “fightback” phenomenon, it’s bullying, harassment and intimidation by the already-dominant group.

  20. rayedish says:

    kasphar – I didn’t really think that you were ‘furious’ it was a (failed) attempt at cheekiness on my part.
    While I think that you are right about some of the reasons that people rally around national symbols, I, like Lauredhel, don’t think that’s the driving force behind the phenomenon we are witnessing in Australia. Among other factors, I feel that national symbols can be used to manipulate people and create an illusion of social cohesion where little exists. Here in Australia I feel that some are gathering around the flag to feel a part of something, and in addition we have young men, predominantly white, using flag waving occasions as an excuse to bully and intimidate others. By virtue of the fact that most other people around them are participating in the patriotic activities they can pass off their activities as being “Australian” when in fact they are little of sort.
    I am not arguing that what you describe doesn’t happen, as you said ‘aggressive flag waving may be indicative of many things’ but in the case of some of the flag waving racial attacks taking place on Oz day I like Lauredhel don’t feel that disempowerment had much to do with it.

  21. kasphar says:

    I feel that our ‘disaffected youth’ come under the heading of ‘not listened to’ rather than ‘disempowered’ or ‘abandoned’ (those labels more aptly describe the truly oppressed, ie Gazans). Many groups encourage our youth to speak out, voice their opinions, etc, devoid of any factual information and no guidelines as to appropriate and sensitive ways to express these views. I have been taking a broad view that this kind of behaviour can’t all be lumped together as inherently bad as suggested by your original post but is used to highlight oppression, etc.

  22. rayedish says:

    kasphar you make a fair point. I particularly agree with “Many groups encourage our youth to speak out, voice their opinions, etc, devoid of any factual information and no guidelines as to appropriate and sensitive ways to express these views.”
    In my original post it was not my intention to imply that this behaviour was inherently bad, (in a lot of cases you are simply seeing families having fun)but I can see how you read it that way when I wrote: “Is it just me or does anyone else find the increasing ubiquity of the symbol of the southern cross (tattoos, stickers on cars) and the aussie flag a little troubling? “. What I was attempting to do was start a discussion and problematise the phenomenon and explore the various factors underlying this behaviour in the present day Australian context. The more broader international context wasn’t something that I had in mind when I wrote this post and I am glad that you made me consider possible (or not) parallel situations and behaviours in places as diverse as China and Palestine.

  23. kasphar says:

    By the way, I do agree that what we saw on Australia Day is troubling. But when these youth see how other groups express their point of view, whether they be Palestinians with their national flag or unionists with their flags and banners, one wonders what message they derive from them. We seem to have failed in our duty to them, despite all our anti-racism and multi-cultural programs, because they still perceive that other groups are more favoured and their views tolerated at the expense of their own. On the surface these youth seem to be racist, neo-nazis, whatever. What drives them to this behaviour appears to be they may feel threatened by other cultures. However, that’s probably for others to contemplate.
    Personally, I find their use of the Australian flag to wrap their views in is troubling, as you do. Maybe that’s all they are – drunken racists louts driven by white supremacist literature. Or they’re just driven by that human condition of ownership – family, area, country, culture, race – which has plagued human beings for centuries.

  24. Stacy says:

    I’m not exactly sure how to word what I’m thinking, so bear with me. I’m from the U.S. (Kansas) and I haven’t ever heard of the conflict described here. Not a huge surprise, since we basically only get international news if it involved some form of terrorism or something happening in Israel. Here, we “celebrate” Columbus Day, which is accompanied by the same sort of problems as your Australia Day. We are making tiny baby-steps towards reconciling our whitewashed history with what REALLY happened, but this day is fairly contentious. I suppose it’s a little heartening to discover our nation isn’t the only one struggling to define itself in regards to its treatment of those who came before us. Obviously, the blind patriotism is undesirable in both instances, but I sometimes forget that our nation isn’t alone in its contradictory self-image.

  25. […] Upon observing a spike in stats here on Australia Day, I note with some pleasure that my un-Australian musings from last year are being revisited. (My thoughts haven’t changed, create a new holiday, not on […]

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