Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Australia Day or Invasion Day? The Schütz Solution

Happy Australia Day to all my fellow Australians. It's almost over, but it was a wonderful day. After attending morning mass for the local "Solemnity" the national day (Timothy and Titus got bumped to last Friday), my family and I went up to Warburton with two of my old seminary friends (local Lutheran pastors) and their families.

We found a patch of lawn and a shady tree alongside the Yarra River (about 15 metres across and 2 feet deep at that point) to spend the day. A picnic (not the traditional BBQ), a couple glasses of wine, some coffee and panettone (rather than the traditional lamintons) in glorious sunshine and light breeze, followed with a game of cricket (traditional) and a game of boule (not traditional).

The temperature today was around 26 degrees, but we are expecting temperatures for the rest of the week to be around 40 degrees with overnight minimums of about 25, so it won't be so pleasant for the next few days.

Anyway, all this is to reflect on the fact that today's public holiday, marking the anniversary of the hoisting of the Union Flag at Sydney Cove in 1788, is somewhat controversial, because it marks the beginning of the European colonisation, or (as it is called by our indigenous brothers and sisters) "invasion" into this country.

Of course, since then there have been other "invasions" - such as the invasion of the local Asian peoples in the last 40 years or so: an invasion which might well have been inevitable, given Australia's geographical location, in the long run even without the European colonisation (so the sole occupancy of the indigenous population was always doomed to end eventually one way or another).

Nevertheless, I have some sympathy for the indigenous point of view. January 26 is hardly a date which unites the whole nation in celebration. However, since the history of Australia lacks an single, stand-out, epochal, nation-forming event, it is very difficult to suggest an alternative.

The only possible contender would be the anniversary of the the Federation of our colonies into one nation on January 1st, 1901. But anyone can see the difficulty of having January 1st as a national day. For one thing, it is already a public holiday for New Year's Day (and ask any Australian and they will tell you that the main point of our National Day is that it is an extra public holiday), for another thing, most people are still on Christmas/Summer holidays at that point anyway - including our public officials.

Discussing the problem with my pastor friends today, there was at least one thing we agreed on: Australia Day should happen in the Summertime. Our national holiday is an outdoor event, it is an event for swimming at the beach, having a BBQ, etc. etc. It is a day for the national dress (shorts and thongs and wide brimmed hat). None of that would work in winter.

As such, Australia Day fits very well were it is. You couldn't have it in December. And by the end of January, everyone is back at work and school.

One more thing before I give my model for a solution to the problem of "Australia Day/Invasion Day". Rather like the modern Catholic Church here in Australia, which shifts major feasts like Ascension and Epiphany to Sunday's where they are more congenial to the populace, Australians like their public holidays on a Monday so that they get a "long weekend". Today, January 26 fell conveniently on a Monday. But if it fell on a Wednesday, the public holiday would be transferred to the previous Monday and we would all be at work on the 26th. (Can you imagine the Yankees doing that with July 4th?).

So, here is my suggestion. We could cut "Australia Day" free from the 26th of January (ie. cut it free from "Invasion Day") but still celebrate it at the same time of the year (which, as I have explained, is the best season for a traditional Aussie Long Weekend). The rule would be something like the rule for the Melbourne Cup (first Tuesday in November) or Easter (first Sunday after the first full moon after the Autumn Equinox): Our National Holiday will henceforth always be on the last Monday in January.

Problem solved.


At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 9:20:00 am , Anonymous matthias said...

How about we keep 26th jan,get rid of Queens Birthday weekend and instead make May27th NAIDOC-National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Celebration. This is the date when the vote to give full citizenship to Indigenous Australians was undertaken-in 1967.
I also think that sometimes ANZAC DAY takes on greater national significance than 26th Jan.
Anyway here is a line from Adam lindsay Gordon a Australian Poet
"Life is all froth and bubble
Two things stand like stone
Kindess in another's trouble
Courage in your own"
To all dwellers of the Sunburnt Country-God Bless

At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 9:48:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

Happy Australia Day, Aussies!

At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:31:00 pm , Anonymous Paul said...

Am I allowed to say that I don't care about this? As usual, I had lunch today with a group of friends, one of whom has his birthday on 26th January. We went to Manly, which is a popular beach-side suburb and there were flags everywhere. To be honest, I resent being told what emotion I should be feeling today. To describe the demands for unquestioning loyalty and patriotism today as fascist would be far too strong, but sometimes it looks like a faint intimation of just that.(Do I get arrested soon as a traitor?)
On the question of a date for our national day - most national days celebrate the day when a country won a war against a neigbouring or colonising country (eg 4th July, 14th July. In Belgium, the national day is 21st July, which I think celebrates killing some Frenchmen for some reason or other. I lived there for 4 years, but never saw the national day because I, like much of the population was on holidays somewhere else at the time. Thanksgiving in the US and St.Patrick's day are honourable exceptions to warlike national days.)
What is the best day to have Austrlia Day? I don't know and, as I said, I personally don't care. Can't we just have a holiday, an BBQ in summer and forget history? The history in Australia since 1788 is pretty tame and unremarkable. We haven't had any wars of independence or great social movements. From what I have read, Australian history is just a series or real estate transactions and aspirational politics.
Who is that knocking at my door? Excuse me, some men in black uniforms tell me I have to go with them........

At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3:13:00 pm , Anonymous Cardinal Pole said...

"all this is to reflect on the fact that today's public holiday, marking the anniversary of Captain Cook's landing at Botony Bay in 1770"

I can hardly believe you have said that! It is in commemoration of the hoisting of the Union Flag at Sydney Cove in 1788, by Captain Arthur Phillip R.N. It's about the arrival of the First Fleet.

"However, since the history of Australia lacks an single, stand-out, epochal, nation-forming event, it is very difficult to suggest an alternative."

Once we have become a Confessional State we will commemorate the day on which this country was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In the meantime:

"What is the best day to have Austrlia Day?"

Abolish it and restore the public holiday status of the Feasts of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick, like during Colonial times. (All Saints should be a public holiday too, so that any foreign ladies and gentlemen will not feel left out.)

At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 10:16:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

I do agree with Paul about what
emotion we should be feeling on Australia Day-really NSW day.Perhaps we should let each state celebrate the day when they were settled or proclaimed a self governing colony.
For exmaple South Aust has dec 28th as Proclamation day.WesT Aust has 1st june as Foundation day
NZ has various celebration days eg anniversary days Taranaki and Otago.
Perhaps Victorians could have either 1st july-Separation Day or 15th August -when Victoria was proclaimed a self governing colony or Dec 4th-Eureka Stockade day.O r we could amalgamate them all and celebrate :
our difference from other states
and a streak of rebelliousness. Hang on we already have that :
Cup day!! Just listen to the throngs at the races sing Advance Australia Fair .

At Tuesday, January 27, 2009 10:23:00 pm , Anonymous Schütz said...

Whoops. Thanks for the correction, your Emmyness. What an ignoramus I am... Well, if I, a generally well educated Australian, thought we were commemorating Cook's landing, what must most others think?

And if that is what this is all about, then I resent the date too, because it is the anniversary of the Colony of New South Wales, and I am a South Australian living in Victoria...

"Can't we just have a holiday, an BBQ in summer and forget history?"

I'm with you on this one, Paul. Although we could call it a "National Holiday" rather than a "National Day" as such. In any case, note that there is a letter in The Age today suggesting the same solution as me. I hope the idea catches on.

At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 12:19:00 am , Anonymous Paul said...

Just to be serious for a moment, I think it is a really bad idea to promote an alternative date as a national day. We would just be reinventing the problem Belfast has in the marching season. The fact is that 26th Jan is the anniversary of Capt. Phillip's landing, nothing can change that. The various factions would start to promote their favourite national date and some crazies might heckle the rivals. Please don't go down this track. If anything, I think we should play down the hype of the national day and don't encourage any rival. 26th Jan should just remain as the anniversary of the arrival of the English First Fleet, so we can celebrate the good of that occasion and repair any evil that might have resulted.

At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 1:38:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

In effect, though, Paul, we wouldn't be changing anything. Sure, leave 26th as the anniversary of the landing, BUT have the Monday at the end of January as the "national holiday". Just as it is now.

At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 6:06:00 am , Anonymous Louise said...

Once we have become a Confessional State we will commemorate the day on which this country was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I just love how you keep on track, Pole.


At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 8:36:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

The great thing about the one-eyed is that they always stay focused...

At Wednesday, January 28, 2009 11:05:00 pm , Anonymous Louise said...



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