Happy Australia Day
[26 Jan 2006]
Australia Day is celebrated every 26th January, commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. Britain’s newest colony needed some “white stock”, so the Brits sent a motley group of petty criminals half way around the world in crowded, harsh and dirty conditions.
On arrival in Botany Bay and later Sydney Cove, the convicts’ first task was simply to survive. They built a colony from scratch and once they had finished their sentences, they were ‘free’.
Well, that was the version we (as in the whites) were always taught. Conveniently, it left out the sordid details of how the original settlers (the aborigines) were treated. They were poisoned or used as target practice, or “cleared” from the land like trees. As experienced by many indigenous peoples around the world, they lost their lands, their self-respect, their culture and their religion. And ever since, Australia has been trying to address the “aboriginal problem” – poor education levels, alcoholism, drugs, crime, poor health and disaffection.
Some things have improved in recent decades. Aborigines were given the right to vote in the 1960s and control over certain traditional places like Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) as part of land rights deals in the 1980s.
Maybe the most encouraging recent development has been a flourishing aboriginal art market. These items are hot and are attracting good prices around the world.
Happy Australia Day.
BTW – Why does Australia still have the Union Jack in the corner of the flag? It’s time for it to go.