Reflections on Australia Day

This weekend we celebrate our national day. We even get a holiday on Monday, even though the actual day falls on a Saturday. As Australians we love an excuse for a celebration and many of us do just that.

For myself, I’ll be doing what I usually do when I’m at home on a weekend – a little bit of work and a little bit of leisure, hopefully nicely balanced and not too skewed either way.

But Australia Day has very different meanings for individuals, and I’ve been reading and digesting a whole lot of viewpoints, which has left me wondering how one day can provoke so much passion and pride in some, anger in others, even shame or denial. Always our emotions are generated by our personal experiences, whether by practice or example, and each one is justified in some way or another, even if only to ourselves.

I am not overtly patriotic. I don’t fit flags to my car or attend Australia day celebrations. But I am quietly proud to have the privilege and good luck to have been born in a country where we have the freedom to express our views and most of us have the opportunity to excel to the best of our ability if we choose to take it.

Our past and our present is chequered and colourful, with plenty of good and plenty of bad. Human beings being what they are, I expect our future will bear out more of the same. We cannot change what has been and gone, but we can each of us strive to be better, to look to what we can do for others or at the very least to do no harm. Collectively, that philosophy becomes more difficult, but to achieve it we have to believe it isn’t impossible.

In my day to day life I have found that negativity has a way of multiplying at a rapid rate if it’s allowed to breed. So for myself, I try hard to thwart negative thoughts with positive ones, to not allow myself to get all worked up over small stuff and to always keep the big picture in mind. Mostly I have found it works, especially if I combine that philosophy with a generous amount of willingness to put aside my doubts and keep trying.

So, although as I write this next part I realise how idealistic, even naive, the words may sound to some, wouldn’t it be great if we could channel all that anger and passion that Australia day provokes into a day-to-day effort that transcends greed and politics to become a force to work towards improving lives, both our own and others, by whatever means we have. May I suggest we start by utilising a few handy tools – forgiveness, kindness and tolerance.


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