Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Australia or New Zealand (01/15/09)
- TITLE: Crikey! I'll just pop another shrimp on the barbie, mate!
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Australia Day was first observed to mark the anniversary of the day that the First Fleet of ships carrying convicts being transported from Britain landed on the east coast of Australia, at the place where the city of Sydney stands today.
In recent times, Australia Day has been embraced by Australians all over the nation. We do remember the difficult issues of how the indigenous populations were adversely affected by those who came here in 1788. It is no longer just about remembering that the European colonisation of our country began with its establishment as a dumping ground for petty criminals from England’s overcrowded prisons, or the foundation of the city of Sydney.
Since the transportation of convicts ceased in the mid nineteenth century, many of the people who came to Australia have been free settlers; people in search of better lives for themselves and their families, as happened during the gold rushes of the 1850s.
Australia today is very multicultural. Many Australians are not English, Irish, or Scottish in origin. Yet, people from all cultural backgrounds celebrate Australia Day as well.
Activities and events are held throughout the country. Among them, are citizenship ceremonies in which migrants become Australian citizens.
On the irreverent side, are gum boot or thong (known as flip flops overseas) throwing contests, and plastic duck races.
Food wise, Australians eat Vegemite (a thick,black, salty spread made from yeast by-products), chocolate iced, coconut covered sponge cakes called lamingtons, and a sugary, meringue based dessert called pavlova.
In televised addresses, our political leaders here encourage us to pause to think about our nation’s past, be thankful for our peace, political stability and freedom, and then consider what kind of place we want Australia to be for our children.
The national anthem, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ is sung as well, though some commentators point out that more people know the words to another traditional song, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, written in the nineteenth century by poet, A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson.
This is unfortunate since ‘Waltzing Matilda’ is about stealing, rather than a song written to stir up feelings of patriotism.
People have picnics, will take trips to the beach, play backyard games of cricket and gather for barbecues with their families and friends.
I wonder what people overseas make of all this, and if they would compare the way that we Australians celebrate Australia Day, to the outpourings of national pride seen in France’s Bastille Day, or American Independence Day?
Australians are very aware of the stereotypes about us and our country that have existed outside of our country, because of Paul Hogan’s ‘Crocodile Dundee’ films that became popular in the late 1980s, and more recently, the late Steve Irwin, who gained international fame thanks to his ‘Crocodile Hunter’ television documentaries.
Reading this may give the impression that I’m a touch sensitive about my nation’s image overseas. I don’t think I am.
The conversations with the people I have met when I have gone overseas have shown just how much people in foreign countries really do know about my homeland.
They do know that though we are seen as a friendly, generally easy going people, most Australians do not fit the uncultured, beer-swilling stereotypes that have been the kind of image of us portrayed in films and television.
I recall the stories about questions teachers and friends told that they had been asked when they had been on overseas holidays, and the questions that an American pen friend I once wrote to, asked me.
To list a few; Australians do have cars, electricity, colour television, running water and modern technology. Most of us live in cities instead of the outback regions of the country.
Though Australia is known for its lethal animals such as crocodiles, sharks, and venomous snakes and spiders, we do not live in fear of them since they do not attack humans unless they are provoked first.
To be serious again, however I decide to celebrate Australia Day this year, I hope I will remember how blessed I am to live here, since I often wonder how my life may have been if I had been born in Scotland instead of Australia.
I assume that many who read this will be from other parts of the world, and perhaps they have some Australian friends. On January 26, remember to greet them with a “G’day mate, how are you going?” and wish them a “Happy Australia Day.”
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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