If you've ever said something like "we should change the date of Australia day" or "we should change our flag", you've almost certainly rubbed up against people who claim that you hate Australia.
I don't hate Australia. Quite the opposite.
I am not forced to be here. I have travelled around the world. I have had the opportunity to see European countries, Asian countries and the USA. I have training and a profession which has transferable skills that are in demand all over the world and qualify me for long-term visas with a view to permanent residency and citizenship.
I literally could choose to live almost anywhere else in the world and would be welcomed with open arms. Yet I don't. I choose to continue to live in Australia.
I might not be able to say with authority that Australia is the best place to live, but it certainly is a very good place to live. We have a high quality of life, and we are one of the wealthiest in the world on a per capita basis. We have a society that believes in a 'fair go' which means we have things like welfare when things have turned bad. We have a universal healthcare system which we're probably only second to the UK in terms of defending as a national treasure. We have a society that believes in an education system that lifts all children up. We are a country relatively free of crime and corruption. Our democracy is free and our preferential voting system is mathematically superior to countries with first-past-the-post like the US or UK. We have a multicultural society and are living proof that people can live together harmoniously.
The social contract in Australia and the culture that is built around it is a great selling point. This is why I like Australia, and why I am still here.
But when I think of the good things about this country, I also think of the people who aren't doing so well. More than 200 years after Cook landed on our soil, Aboriginal Australians are doing substantially worse compared to the average Australian on many metrics, including wealth, earnings, education, health and life expectancy.
The ongoing conditions of Aboriginal people is probably the worst and most embarrassing part of Australia. A country that believes in a 'fair go' and is one of the wealthiest seems to be denying a 'fair go' and the spoils of this land to the descendants of the people who were here first. Aboriginal people are, sadly, the ethnic group that seems to be benefiting least. The reasons are complex, but the inter-generational effects of land theft, murder, effective segregation, and unjust state interventions (like the stolen generation) all have a devastating impact and many of these continue in one form or another even to this day.
Maybe it is a good thing that Australia Day is on the 26th of January. It's a wake up call to me every year to keep pushing for a more egalitarian society, and one that includes Aboriginal Australia. It seems weird to me, though, that the country celebrates on the day things turned dark for the people who were here first. Given that many people want it changed for these reasons, I can't help but join them.
The current choice for Australia Day is a bad one, and an increasingly large number of people, myself included, don't really want to party on that day because it really does feel like dancing on graves.
I like Australia and I want it to be better. That doesn't make me a traitor. Let's make Australia better, let's make Australia Day better, and choose another day.
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