Ooops- is it over already?
I haven’t spent the day driving around with Australian flags fluttering from my car, announcing “Australia- love it or leave it”. I’m uncomfortable with the aggressive edge to both these relatively recent incarnations of a swaggering nationalism and I’m disturbed by the images I’ve just seen on television. I have written about Australia Day each 26 January since I began keeping this blog in 2009, and if you’re interested you can read my mutterings listed here and some ruminations about alternative national days here and here.
The ‘Australian’ editorial on the eve of Anniversary Day, the NSW precursor to Australia day had this to say in 1842:
To-morrow is an universal holiday in the Colony. The Regatta will be witnessed by assembled thousands of our countrymen. The most extensive and liberal preparations have been entered into for its good management, and for creating a spectacle worthy of the wealth and public spirit of the most important and most ancient Colony in the Southern Hemisphere. The Governor, as heretofore, will be present with a numerous suite. A military review will also take place. The harbour will be alive with steamers, and its crowded shipping will be decorated with all their colours.
In the evening 220 fellow citizens will set down to a sumptuous entertainment at the Royal Hotel, presided over by a native Australian second to none in worth and respectability. The festivities of the evening will not be marred by political discord, but will have reference solely to the celebration, common to all, of our natal day. These anniversaries are proper in themselves, and are worthy of the approval of the wise and the good. They tend to mitigate the rancour of party, and to cement the bonds of brotherly esteem, to knit man to man closer together in the struggle for common interests, to melt the frozen springs of selfishness, to teach us the value of sympathy under national depression. It is no mean thing, amid the conflict of antagonistic opinions, to know of a resting place where the hand of one man can meet that of another in the grasp of friendship, where the better feelings of human nature can, for however short a term, be allowed to display themselves. It is something to know that one land mark at least is periodically pointed at by the hand of time, the attainment of which is hailed by united and national re joicings. So that some pause is hereby given for the recovery of temper, ere the armour of party is once more buckled on by those, who from the all-powerful associations of youth, and from the unalterable determination of mental purpose which springs from maturer conviction, must inevitably continue on[?]. It is something, we say, to fling the flowers of present good will upon the grave of departed bitterness. Enjoy yourselves then, Australians, on this your native day. But we beseech you to temper even the most festive hour of relax- ation with thoughtfulness for the future. Probably there never will be, certainly there never has been, a time in your history, when a national heed for the future was more called for.
The Australian, 25 January 1842. From Trove