Posts Tagged ‘Australia Day’

Today is Australia Day. Otherwise known as Invasion Day. Otherwise known as Hottest 100 Day. Take your pick.Basically, for the non Aussie readers, Australia Day is the national holiday. From the American perspective, it’s kind of like the Fourth of July (BBQs, fireworks, beer) only with the deeper racial issues associated with Thanksgiving (for those of us who bother to worry about such things).

When I first moved here, I thought Australia Day must mark the day the penal colony went from being a penal colony to a proper, semi autonomous country in its own right within the Commonwealth … er something like that. Basically, I got sucked into the harmless fun of the day and enjoyed it like I would Fourth of July with beer, fireworks and BBQs. The calls of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!” amused me as some quaint little foreign thing that I had no idea about so I joined in. I was young, childless, loved a cruisey BBQ party and there was Little Creatures beer on tap. Woo!

Then a few things happened. First, I slowly began to realize just what January 26th marked: The day the first boat of convicts arrived to set up the original colony. It is, quite literally, Invasion Day from the Indigenous perspective (and from the perspective of any rational human being with a bit of compassion for conquered people). Needless to say the day was a bit soured for me. Then an even worse aspect of the day started to pop up: the rabidly racist, anti immigration nationalism. Suddenly the occasional Aussie flag or silly costume turned into a mark of just how Aussie (read: racist) you were. Australian flags all over cars, people wearing the flag like a cape, “Fuck Off We’re Full” bumper stickers are everywhere now. Even the Southern Cross symbol has become an emblem for racism, intolerance and hate.

As an immigrant myself, all this makes me extremely uncomfortable. And, ironically, the fact that I am not readily distinguished as an immigrant (at least the kind that these yobbos are attacking) makes me even more uncomfortable. I am white, middle class and a native English speaker. I do not get as overtly attacked as the hardworking non white people who likely struggled a hell of a lot more than me to get here (I count having to learn an entire new language and completely foreign culture as struggling more than I). So I’m lucky and privileged in that but it doesn’t have to make me happy. It sickens me that these people have to deal with any of this shit.

At the end of the day, though, Australia Day is also a summer public holiday. A perfect day for BBQs, beer and friends. How to resolve all this? I think of it as Hottest 100 Day. The Hottest 100 is a tradition started by the national youth radio station Triple J. Triple J, incidentally, is the only radio station I can stomach listening to and would miss it bitterly if we were ever to move overseas. It is, quite simply, the best radio station I have ever encountered (and I’ve lived in quite a few areas of the US so have had a bit of experience with radio stations). Every year, they run a poll for people to vote for their favourite songs of the last 12 months and then they count them down all day long on January 26th. Its usually a fantastic soundtrack to a BBQ. There is discussion of what will get in, who will be in the top 10, and how much we can’t believe that people actually voted for this particular song. It’s pretty awesome and something I can get excited about. So, that’s what this public holiday is for me: Hottest 100 Day. Even though this year’s number 1 got leaked a few days before the event. 🙂

On a personal note, today marks something else as well: I officially became an Australian Citizen on January 26th, 2008. I did have brief misgivings about having my ceremony on Invasion Day given the implications. But I opted not to decline the invitation for fear that it would have taken them forever to offer me another ceremony date and I did want the whole thing over and done. So, I have been an Australian for two years now. This week, in particular, also marks nine years since I officially moved to Australia. Nine years. That’s a long, long time.

For more information on the race issues associated with today, I have some links. The first is the wiki article about the Cronulla Riots which happened in December 2005 but which I feel was a catalyst for the nationalistic fuckwittery around January 26th to crank up to full throttle. The second is a link that I have not had a chance to look at myself (audio issues on my machine & no chance as yet to steal The Geek’s machine to review it) but which was highly recommended by an Indigenous friend of mine as a representation of the Indigenous perspective on this holiday. I’m shit at the fancy link embedding crap, sorry.




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