Australia Day. A day when Australians can come together to celebrate this country of ours. As all school children know (or at least, should) January 26th 1788 was the date when the half English, half German, Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with his settlers after a 15,000 mile voyage from Portsmouth, England to Sydney Cove and planted, as an historic fact, the Union Jack. He had moved those who came with him, from Botany Bay where they had arrived January 20th. Phillip after leaving Botany Bay searched a more suitable site where there would be water, a place to clear the land, erect huts and begin cultivation. What he found, he described as “The finest harbour in the world in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in perfect security”. Thus history was made and so began Australia. The decision to come to that part of the world for the near 1400 souls and eleven vessels was based to a great degree on Captain James Cook’s visitation to the eastern part of Australia in April 1770, this year being the 250 anniversary of his exploration. Cook landed at Point Hicks before proceeding to Botany Bay. He was, without doubt, one of the world’s greatest explorers.
Arriving with Phillip was Elizabeth King who was the first white woman to set foot in Australia. She is buried at Back River, near New Norfolk.
On January 1, 1901 we became a nation. However, we would not have become the Australia we now know so well, if it was not because of Phillip’s landing. What we enjoy today and have the privilege of living in, have been constructed on the foundations of those who went before. Things do not just happen and the peoples who came long ago and even up to recent times, endured the sacrifice, the bravery, the struggles, the enormous challenges, and the many set-backs and yes the failures from which we can learn.
Between 1788 and1901, the six colonies thrived and it is incredible what was achieved within that short space of time. When Tasmania received Responsible Government in 1856 and a name change to Tasmania from Van Diemen’s Land and until federation, tremendous development took place, allowing Tasmanians to enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world. Convict transportation had ceased several years previously. There followed substantial progress for industry, farming, fruit growing, communication, railways, the growth of cities, education and recreation activities. Then came federation and a new country was born. We began with our own Constitution and together with the Statute of Westminster 1931 we became a fully independent country from Mother Britain and with the passing of the Australia Act in 1986 conclusively sealed it. We adopted our own flag on September 3rd 1901. As early as the Versailles Treaty of 1919 which ended the First World, we signed the treaty as an independent nation and much to the chagrin of Britain, Australia said “no” to the execution of our own soldiers during that war whereas all participants, Britain, New Zealand, America, Canada, France and Germany did shoot their soldiers for various offences. Then in World War Two, exercising our independence once again, our war-time Prime Minster, John Curtin, turned to the USA for support much against the will of British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
We have become the envy of the world setting an example of how to achieve and succeed against adversity. Politically we are stable. Economically we are wealthy. On the world stage we are respected. We are still a cohesive society, although there are cracks. We are a freedom loving country, despite dreadful government legislation, both on the state and federal level that curtails our freedom of thought, speech and movement. It is the people which must fight continually for that freedom to be restored. It is our rightful inheritance.
Australia Day, January 26th, is the day for all Australians to celebrate, whether one has been here for thousands of years, hundreds of years or just several months. Our aboriginal heritage is a part of it, with Australia Day being endorsed by aboriginal alderman from Alice Springs, Jacinta Price, aboriginal politician Warren Mundine, Aboriginal pastor Cedric Jacobs whom I knew and the late Sir Neville Bonner, the first aboriginal to sit in the Senate with whom I corresponded. It is time for those of British stock and those of all other stocks to come together, forgetting our political, racial and social differences, to fly the flag and enjoy that traditional barbecue.
For this Australia Day in 2020 it would be wonderful to see Australia culture dominate. We are rich in bush dancing, folklore, music, bush ballads and poems, art and song and no doubt in numerous other ways. However, during Australia Day celebrations, mainly organised by the municipalities, we see little of this, most resorting to events of a multi-cultural flavour. The home culture can never get through when this happens. It is Australia and while respecting all other cultures, because it is OUR Day, let the home culture dominate.
We have much to celebrate, despite what is occurring in the rest of the world, the question must be asked: would you like to live somewhere else? Our thriving cities, our open spaces, our sporting achievements, our recreation facilities, our life style and our comradeship, I would suggest, if we are honest, the answer would be NO.