Happy Australia Day

Greetings to one and all, on this, my 53rd year in this wonderful country. My parents took a huge decision, having never been here and, solely on the advice of others, emigrated to Australia – along with my brother, sister and myself – arriving on the SS Iberia into Sydney Harbour at 6am in the morning of 26 January 1970. 200 years after Captain Cook and 182 after Phillip. And 53 years ago today.

For this, as companions, we break bread together and celebrate as it was a pivotal moment in our lives. Without this move we would not have met our current spouses and friends. We may not have followed our current careers. And our children would not have been born. And my local coffee shop would be poorer. The butterfly effect.

26 January is special for me as this was the day we arrived. The start of a new life in a new culture. This is my view of Australia Day – my perception. But of course, there are many people who are upset at “Australia Day” – calling it Invasion Day, Survival Day and a day of mourning. That is of course their right – this is their understanding, their perception.

History is about the lottery of life, circumstance, and serendipity, over which most of us have no control. Throughout history humans have come, seen and conquered. “Veni, vidi, vici”. Julius Caesar.

History is what happened. It may differ, depending on your perception and position – on which side you were, which stories you have been told, what part your ancestors played etc. But the events do not change. The perceptions of them, perhaps.

Australia Day has evolved over the years from a small holiday in NSW to a major national celebration. Though it has often been criticised, it remains the most inclusive celebration of a national day in Australia, expressing our national diversity, which has become such an important part of the Australian national character.  Australia is the sum of it’s people which is culturally diverse. And because of my history, the 26 January will always be special.

It is important to maintain such traditions as they are part of our history – and without history we lose our identity. We cannot rewrite history. Ignoring things like the Holocaust, destroying statutes of slave traders and renaming locations etc. does not rewrite history. It’s simply putting your head in the sand. We need history to remind us of our heritage. To remind us of both the good and the bad, and to right wrongs. To celebrate achievements. To learn from our mistakes. And most importantly, to move forward.

Those who deny or fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

We today had no control over the events of 1778, nor a lot of wrongs done since then, based on racism and ignorance. We would have done things differently today, but as history cannot be undone, we need to look forward and celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. Australia Day is now a modern day of inclusion. This is a community day. A day to focus on our evolving nation. And a day for migrants, like me, to give thanks. A day to remember our origins, atone for the wrongs of our ancestors and move on.

As the most culturally diverse nation in the developed world, consider what it means to be an Aussie as you drive your European car to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer, downed with a Chinese spring roll full of Indigenous fish & spices, cooked by a Sri Lankan chef – then travel home, via a German supermarket to grab an Indian curry or perhaps a Thai salad or a Turkish kebab takeaway, paid for with a US credit card, on the way to sit on your Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV whilst drinking South American coffee from a Swiss machine and talking on your Korean mobile phone.

The best way to celebrate any event is with a Feast. We use feasts – large and small – to celebrate many occasions. Feasts bring people together. The sharing of food is an important social symbol in the everyday life of all cultures. So whether it’s a picnic by the beach, a barbeque at home, a fancy dinner out, or just a drink with your mates, celebrate Australia Day with some fabulous Aussie Cuisine.

Australia exhibits a global cuisine, a kaleidoscope of cultures and flavours. Australia’s cooking is, like Australia, exciting, dynamic and growing. Australia does not seek to retain a traditional regional character, as for example Italy, so is free to experiment and create new fusion recipes.

Aussie Cuisine is the food of our pioneers – the original Indigenous society, British convicts and colonists, Chinese gold hunters, European refugee migrants, Asian refugee migrants, other displaced migrants and people who just want to be here. Aussie Cuisine is a blend of cultures, borrowing styles, techniques and recipes from around the world and adapting them to our regional climates, local produce and varied tastes.

So, I wish you all a Happy and Inclusive Australia Day – and for ALL of you who were here before us, thank you for embracing my family, keeping us safe and giving us a new start.  Please join with your family and friends, and celebrate the cultures of our pioneers, including our indigenous society, and enjoy some of the best food in the world, in the best country in the world.

Australia was, and is, most definitely worth a special trip!

Cheers. Here’s to ALL of us. We are one.

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