Put some meaty conversation into your Australia Day celebrations.
Scrape down the hotplate and check the gas bottle—it’s time for your Australia Day barbecue.
Come the Aussie Day long weekend, thousands of barbies will be firing up in parks, beaches and backyards around the country, so what’s on the menu? In a nation that has one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world, a fair percentage of those sizzling hotplates are bound to be cooking more than skinny supermarket sausages and steak. Spicy, curried, halal, vegetarian, kosher, vegan—that diversity of cuisine symbolises modern Australia, a land of many people groups celebrating what Australia offers. And part of what is offered on 26 January is a reason to pause and think.
There is so much to be thankful for in our nation. We have freedom—an entitlement not to be taken for granted—which gives us the right to be able to challenge our government, speak out about injustice, have an education, receive health care and worship freely.
We live in a country with thriving urban centres and great natural beauty for anyone to enjoy. How delightful is it to walk along a stretch of sand or in the speckled sunlight of a bush track? Australia Day is a public holiday set aside for us to enjoy our little corners of this great land.
But it’s also a day to acknowledge that the date chosen to celebrate Australia Day is widely recognised as Invasion Day by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The facts are indisputable. When Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, raised the Union Jack at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788, he took over the land of Aboriginal peoples.
Another fact is indisputable; Australia Day is no celebration for the many thousands of people in our community who will still go hungry, be homeless, endure domestic violence or face the consequences of addiction.
No-one wants to spoil a party with negativity, but while we’re chatting around the barbecue hotplate, perhaps we can spend just a few minutes on our national day to think about our collective past, present and future.
We have a shared past, however painful, with our Indigenous people that we should acknowledge and learn from. We have a present that has many positives, but also holds many injustices for us to acknowledge and do something about, however overwhelming they may seem. It’s even a day, perhaps, for personal reflection, a quiet questioning of attitudes and beliefs, a time to consider how God fits into our lives in this hectic, complicated world.
And as for the date—there’s a great deal of hurt and anger around marking 26 January as Australia Day. Some day that may change to a date that doesn’t have the distracting ambivalence we currently have to navigate, but for now it’s what we have. So let’s make Australia Day a time to collectively look to the future while respecting the past and being mindful of the present. We could start by having that conversation around the barbie.