26 January 2017

26 January 2017

A friend of mine came to live in Australia from the UK for a few years and before she went back I asked her what she observed about Australia. She said people were pretty friendly and laid back, that we had a big thing about brunch and avocado, with the two usually going together, and that it was pretty hot (here in Queensland) for a lot of the year. There is a common view that Australia is ‘the lucky country’ and in many ways we are – we are certainly luckier than most. We live in a relatively peaceful country without high levels of violence and civil conflict, our standard of living is very high and the United Nations ‘Human Development Index’ ranks Australia as number two in the world for quality of life. On the face of it there seems a lot to celebrate.


But we don’t need to scratch the surface too much to find that this is not the whole story. One of our most persistent problems is highlighted by celebrating our nation on a day that marks its colonisation. It is hard for me to imagine how any Australian who is aware of the history of colonisation in this country could be in any doubt about the appropriateness of celebration on a day such as this. The 26 January marks the beginning of a dispossession and genocide that has never been fully acknowledged. Our continual refusal to acknowledge the full extent of the impact of the colonisation of this country in both our history and our present continues to be an international disgrace and a source of pain and suffering for many Australians. Without taking responsibility for the actions of our ancestors, many of the other social issues we face in this country, such as the disgraceful treatment of those seeking refuge and asylum in our country, will never be fully addressed and resolved.


We certainly are privileged in many ways in this country but having privilege is one thing, what we do with it is much more important. Globally we are in a particularly conservative time. There is a greater focus on individualism than ever before and this has lead to an increase in intolerance and a decrease in empathy and compassion – essential ingredients for achieving social justice for everyone in our society.


But we have a choice. We can choose to create a society that is equally concerned about our own lives AND the lives of others, where fairness, justice and human rights, are the important principles on which we base our decisions both individually and collectively. Maybe then we could create a society where we all have something worth celebrating.