Nationalist zealots stealing Australia Day


Australia Day As a fourth generation Australian male approaching middle-age, I must confess I do not like Australia Day. Not even the public holiday gets me excited. I am certain at some point, perhaps when I was a late teenager around the time of the bicentenary celebrations, it may have meant something to me. No more!

Critical analysis skills garnered in undergraduate Australian history subjects started the rot. The dawning realisation that the date of white settlement was not an occasion to inspire national reconciliation was a further incentive. Credible research that suggested the first few days of settlement were a veritable orgy of rapes and murder did nothing but crystallise my private loathing for the date.

What has finally tilted me ardently against the day is its growing use by Australian nationalists for the purpose of reviving perceived certainties of a rather dubious monoculture. Instead of being used for a forward-thinking and inclusive dialogue on our country's future, it heralds an opportunity for populists to hark for a return to 'good old days' Australian values with their inherent, yet cleverly disguised, divisions and power imbalances.

The chief flag-waver for the nationalists was John Winston Howard. But not even he could have predicted how dangerous nationalist sentiment could become under his rule. I refer to the Cronulla riots of December 2005 and the shameful nationalist 'initiations' at Big Day Out events the following month, where concertgoers were encouraged to kiss our national flag or face the consequences from roving mobs of thugs.

No doubt the same good Australians a week or so later were celebrating our national day with 'mates' over a lamb-laden BBQ and a game of backyard cricket fuelled by a Cold Chisel CD.

Why provide such a sovereign outlet for these ignoramuses? Surely a patriot manifests their love for country by daily deed and does not need a singular date on the calendar to celebrate civic pride.

The spiel from the Chair of the National Australia Day Council, former champion swimmer, Lisa Curry Kenny, seems unobtrusive. She claims Australia Day is an opportunity to 'reflect on how we all contribute to a peaceful society' and suggests the occasion 'reminds us to embrace our difference and celebrate friendship, the things that unite us and values we all share'.

They would be nice words if they were true. Unfortunately, the very act of celebrating Australia Day excludes a significant number of indigenous Australians. Neither is it helped by flag wearing/waving idealists, both young and old, who are either too ignorant to appreciate the ramifications of their actions or are plainly zealots.

It seems to me the Council has failed in its number-one aim in its published 'statement of intent', namely its objective to 'unite all Australians through celebration with a focus on Australia Day'. How can this intention be compatible with its advertising campaign this month featuring an insidiously-mannered man approaching individuals with information about their lax efforts on Australia Day the preceding year, and extolling them to participate in suggested activities which display national pride, this year? The inference is clear. Do something and you are a 'true blue' Aussie. Don't, and you are an unpatriotic slacker.

In its promotion of Australia Day, my local council issued a pamphlet that featured a young boy swinging on a Hills Hoist with his dog snapping at his heels, and the slogan 'It would be 'un-Australian' not to plan some fun'. Do organisers even think about what messages they are sending when they endorse such clichéd dribble?

I don't own a BBQ, and won't be draping myself in the flag or any other nationalist insignia on 26 January. My wife probably has designs on an afternoon family drive and my eldest son will want me to roll the arm over at some point. I don't care if these activities qualify me for celebrating Australia Day because I don't need a whole lot of nationalist claptrap to encourage me to do them. I am a candidate for them any weekend of the year.

The Rudd Government should put a stop to this nonsense. The charter for the National Australia Day Council expires at the end of this month and it should not be renewed. The body should be dismantled and its funding given to local communities across the country to plan locally-inspired events throughout the year. This should be the case until a majority of Australians decide upon an alternative, unifying day of patriotic celebration.

Tom CranitchTom Cranitch is a Brisbane-based consultant and writer. He is the former Chief Executive Officer of Jesuit Communications Australia.



submit a comment

Existing comments

What a negative statement about Australia Day! We will have a family BBQ - family which includes descendants of First Fleeters (2 of them) and descendants of the Aboriginal tribes. Everyone will be united.
Pat | 25 January 2008

'No doubt the same good Australians a week or so later were celebrating our national day with 'mates' over a lamb-laden BBQ and a game of backyard cricket fuelled by a Cold Chisel CD.'

lol Oh God what a horrible thought, I cringe whenever I think of the mundane 'straight from the menzies era' mentality of some australains. Talk about mundania waters.
peter | 25 January 2008

Spot-on, Tom. I'll join you in spirit in not celebrating as indeed I have done for many a year.
Bill Farrelly | 25 January 2008

Flag waving and flag wearing are all the go particularly at this time of the year. The local stages for a brief summer moment become international when we host Test matches and Grand Slams. They provide opportunities to indulge in displays of Aussie triumphalism and for some of us parade ourselves as paid-up members of the the 'Proud-to-be-Aussies' club. JWH was the self-appointed patron of these ugly performances. Thank goodness he's gone. It's time to dismantle the jingoistic structures that he created and supported.
Alby Twigg | 25 January 2008

I totally agree. I believe that until Australia becomes a Republic and grows up this issue will always be in front of us. By the way I also believe Anzac Day has been hijacked by basiscally the same group of people.
Kevin Rocks | 25 January 2008

So right Tom. An orgy of bad behaviour,out of control litter,assaults and a huge cleanup bill when queues in hospitals are scandalous!
russell walsh | 25 January 2008

I forgot to add that Australia Day should be when Australia becomes independent,the date is yet to be announced and it wouldn't hurt to be on the 25th Jan., the same date as India's.
russell walsh | 25 January 2008

How sad is this attitude? Yes, there are shortcomings but this seems to be a turning of the back and walking away. Most countries have a National Day. Perhaps we need to work harder to make ours better and more inclusive. If we walk away we simply hand it to those who are 'stealing' it. Not a brave thing to do.
Michael Neville | 25 January 2008

I agree with much of what you write Tom. However, I think there is virtue in celebrating our National Day if it is a truly unifiying day - not 26 January, Invasion Day. We also need a renewed endeavour to educate younger Australians with a truthful approach to our history. I hope the National Australia Day Council either disbands or undertakes to re-invent itself into an organisation that drops the trivial and bland rhetoric it uses and strives with men and women, indigenous and non-indigenous, to find an intelligent and challenging way forward. And its composition should be restricted to one sportsperson only!
Paul O'Shea | 25 January 2008

We are becoming very Americanised aren't we? On a local level, it is good to see the achievements of some who give much to their communities acknowledged, so long as we also remember the shame of our beginnings.
Margaret | 25 January 2008

Well said Tom. Especially about getting rid of the insidious Australia Day Council. Anzac Day is the real Australia Day. Jan 26 is just a good excuse to celebrate that true icon of Australia - a paid day off work.

Our Australia Day will be celebrated with Lebanese Muslims at a halal BBQ at my joint.

Trevor | 25 January 2008

Do we need to celebrate white settlement in Australia? It would be great to have a day that all Australians could use to celebrate our country. I do not think owning a BBQ and an Australian flag is the essence of our patriotism, but it would be great to honour those who have gone before us to preserve our country.
Ray Lamerand | 26 January 2008

I applaud the first comment, from Pat. This article strikes me as sanctimonious, censorious, humourless, and puritanical.
APM | 28 January 2008

I absolutely agree with you. I was so shocked when my 14 year old son came home on Australia Day after roaming around the city with a full body length Australian flag and wore it the rest of the evening around the house. His father and I have never been nationalists so we can only assume this is an overhang of the Howard years.
Claudia Taranto | 01 February 2008

I agree. What a load of jingoistic clap trap it has all become led by a group of deluded children who only ever knew Howard as their PM.

He was the most openly and overtly racist PM we have had for nearly all of my life (55 years) and he has helped to bring up a gang of brainless thugs.
Marilyn Shepherd | 01 February 2008

michael kozlowski | 05 February 2008

There is no way that 26th of January can ever be co-celebrated by the people who were the guardians of this country for 50,000 years. Despite being a direct descendent of a first-fleet convict, I am embarassed by this day, and for that matter the Anzac Day militarism of JWH's making. Maybe we should call the 26th settlement day or some such, play it down, and phase it out. Let's find an alternative acceptable to our indigenous citizens.
Llew Davies | 10 February 2008

Tom, you are a true D.H! Australia Day will never be anything but a Nationalist day... Our Federation was set up as the white working man's paradise...
Matt Hodgson | 20 November 2011


Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up