Thursday, February 5

Australia Day

Today, Surfline has a feature about a visit to Australia by some seppo groms (i.e. young US surfers). It includes some sadly comical reflections about Australia Day. Apparently, the seppos where amazed that almost no one could tell them what Australia Day was about.

Finally, young Aussie surfer Mitch Crews explained it to them. Here are Crews' words of wisdom (the audio, with thick Aussie accent, is classic):

Yeah, Australia Day is pretty much, like, a day where to celebrate, um, the discovery of Oz I guess. Captain Cook found Australia. Yeah so we thought, why not name it Australia day? And everyone gets blind on that day. So it's a good excuse to get blind.

Crews appears to be the most knowledgeable person the seppos could find. Nevertheless, for the benefit of my American readers who might not know this history well, I will quibble with a few of his claims:

First, Australia Day commemorates January 26, 1788. Thus, Crews' suggestion that it relates to Captain Cook's "discovery" of Australia suffers from the following flaw: Cook had been dead for almost 10 years.

Second, even leaving aside the fact that people had already been living in Australia for 40,000+ years, Cook wasn't even close to being the first European to "discover" Australia. The Dutch beat him to it by over 150 years.

Third, the day doesn't even relate to "discovery" or exploration at all, but commemorates the establishment of a colony by the First Fleet. In other words, it celebrates the displacement of an Aboriginal community by a few hundred half-starved, lice-ridden convicts and their military masters. This is why the day would be much better known as Invasion Day (or maybe Survival Day).

The Surfline feature is a sobering reminder of how hard it will be to convince Australians to change the date of the national day. How can Australia's Aborigines convince the rest of the country that the anniversary is inappropriate for celebration when most people have either no idea what the day is about or have some half-formed but completely wrong notion? No wonder Rudd, who I'm beginning to think likes to mollycoddle ignorance as much as Howard, shoots down any suggestion of moving the day.


Blogger Nicholas said...

well, they WERE asking surfers. any answer more sophisticated than "it's a day for bashing lebs, westies and poofters" is probably quite sophisticated. ;)

12:02 AM  
Blogger dan said...

well I guess your average semi-professional 17yo surfer doesn't have a lot of time for book-learning.

10:08 PM  

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