I felt especially proud and grateful to celebrate Australia Day this year. As I watched record numbers of families and friends gathering around picnics and BBQs in local parks, I was struck by two things – the sheer joy of people sharing each other’s company and, secondly, the many Australian flags flying.
When most formal Australia Day events were cancelled or modified due to COVID-19, Aussies put on their own celebrations.
While there is a move among some to change the date of Australia Day, a poll shows only 28% support this.
COVID-19 can cancel life as we know it, but we should never cancel our history.
Changing the date won’t change our history. Rather we should tell it all – the good and the bad – while committing to share our nation’s values of freedom, democracy and a fair go with the maturity to celebrate and respect our ancient custodians, the pioneers and more recent settlers and immigrants.
Let me tell you one of those stories. 165 years ago this month, my great great grandfather sailed with “440 souls” from England into Moreton Bay. As the ship attempted to cross the dangerous southern passage between Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, a brave Aboriginal man paddled out, convinced the ship’s captain they were going the wrong way, got onboard, and piloted them safely around Cape Moreton into the Bay. Without his actions, I may not be here today.
So, when I fly the flag, I’m grateful for the bravery of that unknown Aboriginal man, for our ANZACs nearly two generations later, the servicemen and women who defended our freedom and all the unsung heroes whose acts of kindness and courage happen every day. They have made Australia great. We keep it great by honouring their legacy and contributing in every area of our nation’s democratic life. The greatest defence of a fragile freedom and peace is not sitting back, but giving back.