Australia Day. I’m not sure what it means to me anymore.
It used to be a day when I felt lucky and proud. Yes, I still have plenty to feel lucky about; I’ve the fortune of having been born here, a white person. I’m reasonably educated, have a roof over my head and can provide for my kids. For the most part, I’m safe.
But, pride? No. Not really. Not anymore.
Over the past few years – and this last one, in particular, as I’ve thrown myself more into social media and politics – my eyes have been opened wide to the bigotry, entitlement and sheer hatred of some segments of our society. All driven by The Fear. Any pride I’ve felt has been dulled, bit by bit, by the realisation that perhaps this isn’t the country I once perceived it to be.
I’ve travelled overseas extensively since I was 19. Once upon a time, I’d happily state my nationality and answer fellow travellers’ many questions about our exciting, laid-back, faraway land. I wouldn’t do that with so much enthusiasm at the moment.
People are still being locked up on remote islands, in appalling conditions, because they want to escape persecution and suffering, and seek a better life for themselves and their families. Like the ‘better life’ many of us in Australia are afforded – sometimes by virtue of nothing else but having been born here, white people.
You just need to spend a little time on Twitter today to see that there are many people for whom this day is filled with hurt and anger, and is a sharp reminder of the racial divide that still exists in Australia. That many Indigenous people commemorate ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day’ speaks volumes and fills me with shame.
In many respects, we are still far from resolving what is a vast divide between white and Indigenous Australia. The chasms in health care, education and life expectancy, just to mention a few, are shockingly unjust. Never mind the blatantly racist and hate-filled attitudes that are perpetuated and disseminated via some fearful minds with access to social media.
You just need to look at the stupidity of the promotions departments of some major retailers to see how divisive and ignorant some versions of Australia are.
There are calls for Australia Day to be held on a different day, like at the start of January to commemorate the date of Federation. But would it make any difference? Would it really serve to heal and unite us? Would it be a day we could truly come together, equal in all our diversity and history, and celebrate with at least some shared sense of pride?
I reckon that day is a long way off, and we have to do much, much better to get there.
Today will be a non-event in my house. I’ll celebrate again when all Australians feel they can rejoice.