January 25, 2012

Guest Blogger - Tim Soutphommasane

Australians have always been a little uncomfortable with formalities. So it has been with our national day. The Americans may have their Fourth of July parades, and the French their Bastille Day processions, but insofar as there is a definitive way of celebrating Australia Day it’s a barbecue.

And yet, a new ritual is emerging across the country. In town halls and squares around the country this week, more than 10,000 people will become Australian citizens. They will pledge “my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey".

If there is a lack of civic rituals in our national life, I can think of no better way for Australians, new and old, to come together and celebrate our fraternal bonds.

Australia Day is, after all, a day of citizenship. By this I don’t mean that it’s a day only for those who become citizens. Rather, I mean that it’s an occasion for us to reflect upon the things that we share as Australians. It's not all about landscape and lifestyle. We shouldn’t forget the democratic rights and freedoms that comprise the Australian tradition. Though we are a young country in some respects, we’re also one of the oldest democracies in the world.

It can be easy for many of us to take our membership of the community for granted. So this Australia Day, if you’ve nothing planned, think about popping by a citizenship ceremony in your town or city. Witnessing others naturalise as Australians is a reminder that citizenship is not for everyone a birthright. As any naturalised Australian will tell you, it is a status worn with immeasurable pride.

And you can be more than just a spectator too: after new citizens take their pledge of loyalty, you can affirm yours with the same pledge. It’s a humble ritual, more about substance than style. I’d say it’s just about right for a country that doesn’t like going over the top with its rituals.

Tim Soutphommasane is a political philosopher. His books include Reclaiming Patriotism and The Virtuous Citizen (forthcoming this year).


  1. A day for the citizens. Isn't that everyday?

  2. "HELP your Citizens"
    If you want to reclaim patriotism and the Virtuous Citizen then the country MUST know that their is Lyme in Australia and act upon it. If you don't then 100s of thousands will suffer a horrible life even death when ignord and left for Dead!

    Please get the word out & Force the government to help those who suffer and loose their lives over a simple aussie tick bite. All these people can be great and powerful citizens if you help them.


  3. Here is some interesting figures from the immi.gov.au website-

    The total migration program outcome for 2010-11 was 168 685 places against a
    planning level of 168 700 which is 15 places or 0.009 per cent below the planning

    The majority of the migration program was sourced from China, the United Kingdom
    and India.

    Within the overall program the breakdown by visa stream was:
    • the skill stream: 113 725 places delivered (-0.11 per cent below the planning
    • the family stream: 54 543 places delivered (-0.01 per cent below the planning
    level); and
    • the special eligibility stream: 417 places delivered (39.0 per cent above the
    planning level).

    Yes these are large numbers that we talk about, and when you break it down into individuals it is really staggering. Think of all of the fathers, mothers, cousins, and grandparents that are bringing unique bits of their culture into the broad landscape of Australia.

    When you have a look at the different elements that individuals are bringing into the Australia persona it is amazing. A couple of decades ago it would have been impossible to go down the street and get traditional Vietnamese delicacies, handmade carved art panels from Indonesia, or language classes from masters of their languages.

    It is amazing, and enjoy continually exploring the changing face of Australia.