Tuesday 26 January 2021 – a day that divides a nation.
Where do you stand on our national day? Do you celebrate with pride, or shun due to the date’s association with our colonial past? Or do you just enjoy the public holiday to kick off a new year, and try to avoid the background noise?
In this post I am not attempting to unpack the arguments behind Australia Day and the date on which it is held, though maybe I should someday. (Check out the link below for a little additional reading.) If you do want to talk it over, then let’s sit down for a coffee.
The reason I am writing is because I believe that it is possible to retain friendship with fellow Aussies, even if we disagree.
Australia Day is as good an opportunity as any to actually work out how we can come together, as fellow Australians, to rediscover the skills of giving and receiving dignity, respect and a good-old-fashioned “fair go”.
The fact is that each of the different perspectives are all right.
- This is a remarkable, prosperous and beautiful country and we have so much to be thankful for – true!
- This continent was the home of the First Australian peoples for thousands of years, before colonisation and the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships on 26 January 1788 in New South Wales – true!
- The day is a public holiday at the very end of the long Summer break, and right before most schools commence for the academic year – true!
This is of course oversimplified, but depending on our own personal life journey, many of us have come to stand on our view as THE truth, which means we will often see those who disagree as wrong. We gather with our own kind, who reinforce our view of the truth, and refine our arguments against the other.
This pattern happens on so many important issues, leaving modern society highly and emotively divided. This is a huge problem, but I believe we can do something about it.
Do you mind if I propose a couple of steps we can take to overcome these chasms in the social discourse, and become agents of soothing change, both for ourselves and for our whole country?
1. Articulate what Australia Day means to you – each of us have a unique and special story. Some of us have an ancient connection to this country, while the vast majority of us have cultural stories that originate from lands beyond these shores. But if you now call Australia home, what do you love about the place? Look for the positives, talk to others and post on your social media feeds these best things. Explore and articulate what makes you feel thankful that we have a day to celebrate Australia.
2. Listen to different perspectives – the reality is that most of us are surrounded by our own kind, who share our own views of Australia Day. I admit this next step might be a challenge but take the initiative to seek out and listen to the views of those you do not agree with. Remember they may not be right as you see things, but their views are entirely valid. The best way to do this is to ask others questions about what they love about Australia, and what their views on the day are. And be sure to listen, and not launch into an argument why they are wrong. This step will be hard when you first do it, but it actually becomes therapeutic and enlightening the more you practice it.
3. If you do, protest with compassion – protest, or at the very least promoting your perspective, is not only healthy for you but it is vital for a strong society. But do this after acting on steps 1 and 2 above, and so recognising that those with differing views are fellow Australians who love this country and who do not like being yelled at (coz, you know, none of us do!) Who knows, if you take time to listen to their views and treat them with compassion, they may even hear what you are saying and come to your way of seeing things?
4. And in the end, mark the day – finally I have come to the opinion that despite the division and conflict, that it is actually really important that we do mark the day, somehow. You may have an impassable problem with 26 January, so you may choose to celebrate Australia Day on another date (like 8 May … or May 8 … or “mate”!), but no matter what you do, do gather with fellow countrymen and women, who hold views like your own as well as different views, and raise a glass to the things that Australia Day means to you!
We are an imperfect nation and people, but we can be a nation and people who enjoy peace and hope and who can learn to work together for an even better future, for all of us!
If you would like to read more check out these links:
Home ‐ Australia Day (https://australiaday.org.au)
Australia Day | What Is Australian Day | History Of Invasion Day (https://australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/australia-day/)
Australia Day Grace – Ethos (http://www.ethos.org.au/online-resources/Engage-Mail/australia-day-grace)
About the author…
Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.