Australia Day has begun to upset me, as it approaches and passes each year. This is a day for our country – to celebrate our nation – but for some reason I NEVER get excited about it. Australia Day always brings out negative aspects of Australian society, even when we are conscious that this is going to happen – it still happens, stirring up malicious talk and furious debate about flags, colonialism, indigenous rights and so forth.
When people hang flags out their car windows – yes, I am one of those disgustingly unpatriotic (go on, call ACA) people who go “ugh!” because, burned in my mind, is the mental picture of those flags hanging out of the windows of utes, with their massive bull bars and those high antenna type things that I don’t even know what they are – with bumper stickers declaring “f@#* off we’re full”. Yes, I’m stereotyping – but after you see these people a few times, you begin to feel sick, and these flags – the flags of our lucky, wonderful country, begin to represent racism, and xenophobia.
Flags should imbue pride, love, strength of character, memories of a nation – but no, I don’t want to see the Union Jack anymore. (And no, I’m not trying to erase from our past the horrors, the victories, the construction of our country on the backs of convicts and pioneers, I’m just ready for us to move on from England – we are so much more than that now.)
So anyway, Australia Day came and went. I stuck a few flag tattoos on my body to appease my friends, although I cut the Union Jack out of one, and we put up the usual big flag in the backyard, replete with cardboard Aboriginal Flag stuck over the left corner with a bulldog clip.
And every year, I am so thankful that my friends appreciate this day in a similar way – we call the party Oz Day/Invasion Day, and they come to play cricket, share a BBQ, and they always admire the two flags merging to make one. To us it’s just a day. We ignore the nationalistic propaganda that pulls in the hoards of Australians who are frightened of ‘losing their way of life’ or being converted to Islam.
I teared up as I watched our newest Australians being welcomed into our country on the morning of Australia Day, being given their Australian Citizenship. Headscarves, skull caps, white people, black people, Asian people – THAT is what I love about Australia.
But still, preceding the holiday we endure the week of Today Tonight’s “investigative reporting” and A Current Affairs’ “exclusive reports” about red-neck racists and flag waving, and their ridiculous stories that drive the seeds of intolerance further and further in. I witness Facebook friends (“friends”) get upset about Indigenous Australians calling Australia Day “Invasion Day”, and read their ignorant and blatantly insensitive rants about this, whilst in my head vile visions swirl of Aboriginal babies being buried neck deep and having their heads kicked in. THAT is why I get upset about Australia Day: because people just chuck another shrimp on the barbie and bang on about how great we are, while Indigenous Australians count themselves lucky to live past 50, and the Northern Territory has become the suicide capital of the Western World.
So, Part 2: I went to the cricket. Australia vs India, 20/20.
It was fantastic. The spirit of the crowd was amazing. The Indian supporters outnumbered the Australians, and the crowd was this crazy mix of yellow and blue. There was a lot of love.
I love the Indian community of Melbourne. I love the way they smile, they dance, they have a good time. There were no drunken Indian supporters (not like the rowdy Barmy Army), I didn’t even see many drunken Australian supporters, and I saw no fights, no anger, no hatred, no intolerance. I’m sure it existed that night, but you know what? I didn’t see anything but love, appreciation for good sport, and a genuine friendliness between the two sides and countries.
Down in front of us some Indian supporters were going to a lot of trouble to decorate a banner, which they would hold high above their heads whenever there was an excuse to cheer. I straight away felt a pang of concern – they were blocking everyone’s sight, and I envisaged the large, vocal group of Aussie supporters getting narky about their diminished view. I tensed up, considering where I could run to if it got violent.
It didn’t get violent. The Australians instead brought out their own banner (“We love Hogg”), which I half expected to say the comical “We can’t see!” Even more comically, the back side of the “We love Hogg” said “WRONG WAY” to the delight of us all sitting behind.
It was a great night. I loved Melbourne, and I loved Australia right then.
Media Watch was on last night, a show that I have always loved – I think because I never actually know when it’s on, it just suddenly appears after some other show on the ABC, and gives me a good little chuckle for ten minutes.
Media Watch last night took a look at the media coverage of the Australia Day incident concerning PM Gillard and her Cinderella moment in Canberra, and the consequence of having news websites that do not moderate comments made by readers.
Some readers of the online articles had freely left disturbingly derogatory comments about Indigenous Australians, with no moderation, and no censorship. The thoughts being written out for the internet world to see, just showed the horrible and ignorant, racist aspects of Australia, and they were able to use words that have long been known as unacceptable because the ‘automatic censor’ didn’t have these words registered as intolerable for the site. My happy memories of the Indian and Australian supporters smiling and dancing together were slowly fading…
At least a recent online article about Migrant Workers in Australia made me chuckle, when one switched-on reader commented that they should “all go get jobs”. Oh dear.