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What a good Australia Day might look like

  • 23 January 2019


There is really not much to say about Australia Day. Few people know exactly what it commemorates. Fewer would mind if it were moved, say, to a less holiday-rich time of the year; no one takes it seriously as an event, but everyone enjoys a day off work. And anyone who follows politics in January grows tired of politicians trying to reap electoral hay from the day with their pontificators and binders.

So rather than talk about the Australia Day that we have, let us reflect on what a good and engaging Australia Day might look like. In the first place, it would be a celebration, politician-free and corporation-free. Lots of local events, parades, barbies, parties, beach cricket, boules and volley ball games, exhibitions, skits, gigs, festivals and good conversations. None of them would bear a sponsor's name or badge; all would open with an acknowledgment of the traditional owners of land.

A good Australia Day would also be inclusive, encouraging each national community of origin, religious, political, and social group to open to others the gift of heritage that they make to Australia. The streets would be lined with stalls offering pie floaters, pasta, hallal and kosher meats, empanadas, fish chowder, boko-boko, rice, chicken korma, falafel wraps, noodles, pupusas, roti, risotto, kimchi, octopus curry, pork pies, bat soup and vegemite sandwiches.

And for sweets, of course pavlovas would be at hand with croissants, baklava, gelato, Anzac biscuits, banana sticky rice, Turkish delight and crostoli. And barristas would rove up and down the streets boasting beans borne from such fabled sources as Lilliput Valley and Brobdingnag Bluffs.

The sound of the didgeridoo would be heard throughout the land. On each street corners buskers would mark out their patch, playing violins, oud, piano accordion, berimbau, ukelele, cláirseach, nyatiti, cello, mouth organ, zither, anklung, daduk, grand piano or recorder singing the love songs and epic poems from the many civilisations that have enriched Australia.

Citizenship ceremonies would be held in municipal parks, attracting new citizens, families and well wishers. On participants' heads will be seen top hats, akoubras, hijab, baseball caps, turbans, yamakas, dreadlocks and shaved pates.

They would come dressed in suits and ties, kimonos, saris, beads and shawls, board shorts and t-shirts, knickerbockers, gakti, and crinolines. On those whose feet were shod would be lace-up shoes, clogs, boots, sandals, mukluk, runners, Ugg boots, slippers and thongs. During the ceremonies, in return for the gift that they