December 21, 2011

Aussie Clue Cracker

From the unofficial Uluru and Surf Life Saver to the official National Flag and Australia Day, Australia has a rich array of national symbols and emblems. For a nation that often eschews the formal trappings of nationhood, we have a surprisingly impressive collection of symbols and emblems.

The NADC is pleased that mid-January we will be releasing a new digital education resource called the Aussie Clue Cracker which explores 24 national days, weeks, symbols and emblems. In playing the game we hope that students across Australia will grow their understanding of how our current symbols have been shaped by our history, and how our symbols will evolve over time.

We are delighted to publish this resource so that young Australians can learn more about their history, and in so doing shape our future.

The resource can be taught at any time in the year and will be available though and mid-January.

August 30, 2011

Thoughts on our national day

Australia Day is now a widely popular celebration of a mature nation. Australians do not need the grand symbols of the old world or the high-flying rhetoric of some new world nations. Our symbols have not been born from defeat and victory, and do not hark back to old fashioned conceptions of nationhood. We have created our own national celebration that reflects our unique story. The lack of old-styled symbols on Australia Day does not represent a lack of national maturity. Quite the opposite. On Australia Day we remember the past with a forward-looking focus.

A central symbol of the day are hundreds of future-focused Citizenship Ceremonies. On Australia Day 2011 we opened our national arms to embrace over 13,000 new citizens and with them we...

...affirmed our loyalty to Australia and its people,
                Whose democratic beliefs we share,
Whose rights and liberties we respect,
and whose laws we uphold and obey.

Australia Day is a powerfully inclusive, cohesive and mature symbol. We do it our own unique way.

Warren Pearson AM

July 11, 2011

What's your passion?

If I could only use one word to describe our Australian of the Year Award recipients it would be passionate.

 Regardless of their area of interest, the thing that is common to them all – and there's 51 years of evidence now – is that whatever they do, they give it 110 per cent.  Not only 110 per cent of their time, but 110 per cent of their energy, their thought, their enthusiasm and their commitment. 

This is never truer that in the extraordinary year that is theirs when they are announced as Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year or Australia's Local Hero.

Does this sound like someone you know?  Someone who’s making a real difference?  We’d love to hear about them!  You can nominate them now for the Australian of the Year Awards 2012. 

June 29, 2011

Settlement, Invasion or both?

First Fleet Re-enactment 1988
Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the City of Sydney officially described the arrival of the British in 1788 as an ‘invasion’ shifting from the previous language of ‘arrival’. An overview of some of the issues are covered in the article “No watering down invasion truth of 1788, says indigenous leader Paul Morris” as well as The Punch article “At what point does settlement become invasion?”

In the comments that followed the articles most people have taken strong positions that the arrival of white settlers in 1788 is either invasion or settlement. Is this not a bit heavy handed? History is not fixed and it can be understood in multiple ways. Surely it is both invasion and settlement.

We can understand the arrival of the First Fleet as being an invasion by armed British Marines. At the same time we can see it as being the arrival of a ragtag bunch of disposed convicts banished from their homelands. Both of these things are true and one does not preclude the truth of the other.

On Australia Day we can both commemorate and celebrate. These are not mutually exclusive.

January 20, 2011

A great Australian ritual

I’ve had this cartoon pinned up in my work station since I first saw it in 2005. On Australia Day we wear our national identity and symbols lightly.

Australia Day is not an occasion for great rhetoric or formal ceremony. Rather we mark the day in thousands of small and large events across the nation. We get together with family, friends, neighbours and even strangers to celebrate the great fortune of being Australian.

Our other national day, ANZAC Day, has strong symbols: the digger, bugle call, wreaths and rosemary, even a biscuit. Australia Day has never had a civic ritual which binds the occasion. Australia was not born in revolution and our independence from Britain has been a slow evolution. It could be argued our independence is not yet complete for our head of state is not an Australian citizen.

Our pragmatic evolution as a nation has left us no legacy of symbolic civic ritual. We cannot read a declaration of independence, we cannot celebrate the defeat of an enemy, and we cannot celebrate national unification. What we do have is the freedom to celebrate our national day in any manner we wish – from going to the beach to watching the big concert on the ABC or perhaps attending a citizenship ceremony.

We do not need elaborate rituals for our authentic celebration - we simply get together in groups large and small to celebrate Australia and being Australian.

Arthur Phillip had been at sea for eight and a half months and surely needed to take the day off on 26 January 1788. Two hundred and twenty three years later a public holiday on our national day has become our authentic ritual.

Warren Pearson

January 10, 2011

Racist or Patriot?

Not every young person draped in the flag is a racist.

On Australia Day over 50% of Australians will attend public events or get together with family and friends for the specific purpose of celebrating Australia Day. In recent years we have seen a surge in young Australians celebrating Australia Day – and often they drape themselves in the flag or paint it on their face. Is this a happy expression of benign patriotism or is it an expression of xenophobia?

While Australia is not a racist nation there is no denying that some Australians are racist. It is a genuine concern that some use our national day to promote their narrow view of what it is to be Australian.

If a true patriot is someone who loves and defends their country, then a true patriot will stand against racism. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our national day is inclusive for all of our 22 million fellow Australians.

Some people wear the flag to claim it exclusively for their narrow and exclusionary view of being Australian. Others wear the flag to celebrate a nation which is an overwhelmingly open and inclusive society.

We must be careful not to assume that all young people draped in the flag are racist xenophobes.

January 6, 2011

Australians All?

Australia Day is just 21 days away and it is the time I think about what our national day means. Australia Day does not mark a defining moment in history that can be commonly and equally celebrated by all Australians.

The date, January 26, recalls the day of British settlement, one defining moment on the path to modern nationhood. For many Australians, British settlement represents invasion, loss, or something alien to their experience and identity.

What is celebrated on Australia Day, even how we celebrate Australia Day, remains contested. This is not surprising given the ongoing evolution and multiplicity of Australian identity. It would be deeply problematic if Australia Day celebrated a singular experience of Australia and being Australian.

While many Australians bring a healthy scepticism and larrikin irreverence to their national day, most take their responsibilities as citizens seriously. Australia is not a nation of spontaneous flag-wavers – we are a nation of organised flag-wavers.

Providing event and communication opportunities through which Australians can demonstrate their national spirit is the work of the National Australia Day Council. On Australia Day the Council seeks to highlight the best of the Australian experience so that Australians might reflect upon their shared and varied experience.

The Council has not attempted to produce a reductive account of the Australian experience. Rather, we have sought to acknowledge and embrace the diversity of national experience and the contested meanings and modes of celebrating Australia Day. In acknowledging, and embracing the contestation, diversity has become a means of making the day more broadly accessible and inclusive.

Despite the increasingly cosmopolitan character of modern Australia, the celebration of Australia Day is growing and developing in ways that reflect, and facilitate, a more widely shared appreciation of the anniversary and its meanings. The aim is to see Australia Day become a day of celebration for Australians, a day on which all can celebrate together all that is great about Australia and being Australian.

Warren Pearson

Adapted from a previously published paper

Pearson, W. and O’Neill, G. (2009) ‘Australia Day: A day for all Australians’ in McCrone, D. and McPherson, G. (eds) National Days. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan pp. 73-88.