It’s very wet and has been for days. Ex tropical Cyclone Oswald, that started life in the Gulf of Carpentaria, is now meandering its way down the coastline creating havoc in its path. The dry summer filled with the terror of bush fires has quickly been transformed into flood. The constant rain brings back the reminder of the 2011 January flood that inundated our house and many others on the flood plain on which much of Brisbane is built. The Premier says that the dams will hold. I hope he is right.
But then, this is Australia and this is the way things are. It also happens to be Australia Day and the proposed bike ride with friends to the hills around Brookfield has been canned. I’m a bit like a caged lion (well maybe just an old moggy) and have to be content with a possible run in the wet and time spent watching the professionals on TV doing their thing in the Tour Down Under. It’s hot and dry in South Australia and much of what is in between is either on fire or flooded.
One plus about a wet Australia Day is that it has quite possibly dampened the spirits of the “yobbos”. Kathleen Noonan is a wonderful journalist and her article in The Courier on this special day is entitled “Be a Proud Aussie Quietly”. Amongst other things of excellent quality and sense she says and I quote:
“I’m not big on Australia Day. It used to be a day when people quietly marked their good luck of living here, but now it seems to be about aggressively draping ourselves in flags and drinking excessively to prove our nationalism.
I think most Australians are uncomfortable with that. We like our pride to be quiet. We like our louts to be larrikins not dickheads”.
I read this bit to a friend who just called in for a coffee. She said that while standing out in the street this morning chatting with friends, a car passed and the young female occupant leaned out waving a flag and shouted –
“Happy f…ing Australia Day you c..ts”.
It seems that it was still not wet enough to dampen the spirits of some.
And what is it about this flag waving stuff? And then there is the flag itself? It seems that while some are intent on shoving it in your face, an increasing number would like it to be changed. The problem bit seems to be the section in the top left hand corner. The Union Jack. The British flag. Why do we still have the British flag on our flag? An increasing number of Aussies have no connection with Britain and want that bit removed. At the London Olympics, there was one occasion when the podium was filled with a representative from the Britain, Australia and New Zealand. All the flags flown contained the Union Jack. The rest of the World must be very confused.
The Canadians sorted this out years ago. I like the Canadians. Their flag used to have the Union Jack, but they got rid of it. Now their flag contains just one symbol. The maple leaf. It is possibly one of the most recognized flags in the World, though my US friends would disagree, and it speaks for all Canadians. The symbol of the maple leaf is universal. We have the Southern Cross and that is all we need.
Of course, not all Australians celebrate Australia Day, even quietly. Kathleen Noonan says that “she can understand why indigenous Australians aren’t real keen on Australia Day”. The 26 January 1788 was the beginning of the end of a once proud nation of people who had survived quite comfortably on this harsh and changing land for thousands of years. My mind goes back to when Karyn and I were on our boat in 2001 and we sailed into Cooktown in far North Queensland. We arrived in time to see the reenactment of Cook’s landing in 1770. This is the spot where he proclaimed that all of the East Coast of what is now Australia belonged to Queen Elizabeth. The local indigenous population obviously didn’t understand and only became upset when Cook took a couple of dugongs and wouldn’t share them around. If only they knew he was taking everything. The battle for land rights is a constant.
Noonan also talks about that while most Australians have plenty to be thankful for, “We won the lotto of life”, she reminds her readers that it is no longer the case that we live in a “fair and egalitarian society”. In a land that is so rich in resources, the divide between the rich and poor is deepening. On this Australia Day she wishes we do more contemplation and share the luck around.
And so, as the day ends the moggy is let loose and the run completed. Friends are over for dinner to plan our next adventure. We are heading South in our vans for a few months. Hope the fires are out and the floods gone.
On our first day out, we are going to stop at a very special spot in Northern New South Wales. It is the site of the Myall Creek Massacre in 1838. Twenty-Eight Aboriginal men, women and children were murdered by a group of white settlers. They didn’t call them massacres in those days. Gangs of stockmen went on what was simply known as “The Drive”. This common practice continued for at least another 100 years. Yes folks, right into the twentieth century and the Sydney Morning Herald quotes that overall “premeditated butchery of men, women, children and infants accounted for the aggregate for tens of thousands of black lives”. Australia Day features as the anniversary of at least one such massacre at Waterloo Creek.
While things have changed, there is still a lot to do and leaning out of car windows shouting obscenities is definitely not part of it.