Most Nations ‘celebrate’ some sort of annual National Day, which usually marks the gaining of independence from an imperial power in the past. ‘Australia Day’, as it is known here, marks the establishment of Sydney on January 26, 1788.
As the majority swill beer over the proverbial ‘prawn on the barbie’ without giving the actual meaning of The Day a second thought, many more are delving deeper and questioning the validity of celebrating something that seemingly has lost its way to become ‘National racists day’.
Ever since the mid nineteen sixties when the Australian Indigenous population was officially recognized as Human Beings, there has been the nagging thought in many of us that January 26 represents nothing more than a foul celebration of the Invasion of the Aboriginal Nation by Europeans. Indeed, many now call it “Invasion Day”, in curt recognition of the fact that Australia was inhabited by a people before the arrival of the Europeans.
Now, it’s not within the scope of this article to expand further on the injustices that the Indigenous have been subject to since 1770. Let it be sufficient to say that the collective ‘wrongs’ fall into the classification of genocide, and that this fact has been well recognized by successive Australian Governments with various actions for redress, not the least of which is the official ‘Native Title’ for ownership of land. Many, including myself, would argue that this recent action is ‘far too little, far too late’.
Since that inglorious day in 1788, Australia has evolved to become a modern, multi-cultural Nation of approximately 22 million people. Largely, we were subject to the ‘White Australia policy’ up until the 1950s, when institutionalized racism sought to boost the population through the immigration of white Europeans.
It’s interesting to note that during the nineteenth century no such discrimination regarding immigration existed at the ‘official’ level, with workers largely valued for their contribution, if not entirely treated as ‘equals’. Many of Asian and Middle Eastern origin tried their luck in the developing gold fields and the markets of the big cities, on an equal footing to those of European descent.
Since the ‘opening’ of immigration in the 1950s we’ve had an influx of people from all parts of the globe, creating a rich, culturally diverse landscape that is the envy of many other nations. If we have anything to celebrate here, this is it. A good proportion of Australians have come in through refugee programmes from war-torn areas. All of the newer ‘Aussies’ find, on the surface, a place where they can live comfortably without fear of persecution because of the colour of their skin.
While Australia has always had its racist content, the abundance of resources, food and, arguably, ‘opportunity for all’ has largely quelled any serious racial tension. This situation has altered somewhat over the past 30 years as free market economics has driven deeper and deeper into Western Society, creating substantial imbalance, decay and other negative social issues.
It took the Cronulla riots of 2005 for Australia to realize that ethics were well and truly under decay. Largely disenfranchised Anglo youth from Western Sydney supported the local Cronulla youth in a ‘call to arms’ to cleanse the beaches of Middle-Eastern descent youth. Primarily a ‘turf’ war, the violence was totally out-of-character and showed a simmering bed of racism fuelled by Far-Right antagonists using fast communication methods.
Every “Australia Day” now sees the racist element bubble through to the surface. The internet is full of Memes on January 26 alluding to ‘we are Australian, and you are not, so it’s war (sic) – F—off’ – inane discrimination fuelled by social tensions, with little done in resolution by a Government predominantly concerned about macro economics.
General violence is on the rise in Sydney. Plastic cups are now mandatory in many alcohol dispensing venues due to a plague of ‘glassings’ (drinks glasses used as weapons). Gun use is back on the rise – “Women, small debts, domestic tensions, road rage, neighbourhood spats, minor property disputes, pride and even wayward glances have triggered shootings in Sydney in the past year”.
All of this is the result of decaying social conditions. Unemployment benefits are at their lowest relative to the cost of living since their inception as Governments, both state and federal, try to ‘balance the books’ while chanting some sort of inane paranoia about impending financial doom for all. The truth is that Australia is relatively well-off financially compared to the rest of the West, and any ‘doom’ will be the result of financial implosions elsewhere. Our financial problems stem from the Government’s inability to control ‘high capitalism’ with the likes of mining magnates Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer being allowed to ply their filthy trades almost unfettered, with little return to the population. “Selling off Australia”, as many see it.
At the ‘direct action’ end of the spectrum regarding the taming of violence, so little is done with intelligent thought that it is laughable. It is ‘assumed’ that everyone understands ‘Violence is bad’ while it runs almost out of control. Children are fed ‘violence’ on a daily basis through electronic gaming, through family tensions and disputes, through the media portraying ‘violence as cool’. Schools offer only the most rudimentary offset to this violence and indeed contain an unhealthy dose of it through the pressures placed on the public sector teachers. It’s as if ‘this is the way it is’ and we cant change it’ – standard Public Servant suppression.
So what is there to celebrate on Australia day? If I were a recent refugee from Afghanistan I would be grateful simply to be here – so I’m most pleased that we accommodate people from disasters elsewhere. I’m glad we’ve come this far without large scale war on Australian soil. I’m pleased that we contribute to the financial welfare of other countries. I’m undoubtedly pleased to be well fed and housed.
But I’m simply disgusted by the racism, the violence and the lack of action by the Government thereon!