Busselton Jetty, Australia

‘Straya Day: a primer

Tomorrow is Australia Day, Australia’s creatively-named national holiday on the anniversary of the start of British colonization of Australia.

Actually, Australia Day is a multi-week event. It starts in early January, with Meat and Livestock Australia trolling vegetarians everywhere with an ad urging everyone to eat lamb on Australia Day and maybe also set a vegan’s coffee table on fire if you have the chance. That last bit is literally from this year’s ad, which I will admit gave me a decent chuckle when I saw it at 4 in the morning in Frankfurt airport a couple of weeks ago.

Having opened ceremonies with the traditional I’m a Vegan And I’m Rather Cross dance, we then move on to a rather more grim slanging match, in which various Aboriginal Australians point out that maybe having a national day celebrating the start of years of attacks on their people by Europeans is a bit, I dunno, in bad taste, and then various white Australians say things like “Can’t you, like, move on? It’s at least a couple of decades since we forcibly removed your children form you” and various other white Australians say things like “yeah nah Stan Grant totally makes a good point” and then continue with the status quo up to and including not even seriously entertaining the idea of picking a less contentious date for the national holiday.

Meanwhile, the Eff Off We’re Full Brigade stocks up on Australian flags to wear as capes and the Multicultural Inner City Squad mutters things about “National Dickhead Day” and people (like me!) write blog posts about How Australia Day Reveals the Divisions in Australian Society although fortunately we get countered by articles like this moving collection of stories from a range of Australians about how they came to Australia.

If you don’t live in Australia, then you get an extra bit of pre-26th tradition which is that somehow — regardless of whether you bring it up — a few days before the 26th your non-Australian friends find out that it’s nearly the Australian national holiday, and you get to have slightly awkward conversations explaining all of the above to people who really just wanted to know that it’s common to have a barbeque on Australia Day.

And then the 26th comes around and lots of alcohol is consumed and if you’re in Perth you get a decent fireworks show and that’s it for another year.

(Oh but you really must watch Stan Grant’s speech on racism in Australia, it’s a powerful piece of rhetoric and it went viral for good reason.)

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2 thoughts on “‘Straya Day: a primer

  1. Edna

    Wow. That speech. I can see where he’s coming from — my first trip to Australia I remember getting racist abuse from a stranger in Perth only a couple weeks into my stay.

    (PS I really like your version of explaining Australia Day! All I see on facebook right now is photos of booze and BBQs.)

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    1. Where's Zoe Now? Post author

      To be fair, booze and bbqs make up a large part of it in practice! :) But it does feel like every year we all have the same conversations about “what is Australia and how can we make it better”, but nothing much changes. (Case in point: racially abusing a stranger in a first-world city in the 21st century :( )

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