Jenny - Clean

LET’S CELEBRATE AUSTRALIA DAY ON THE FIRST TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER

IT'S 'Groundhog Week' for Godfrey – back on one of my favorite hobby horses – declaring how much more appropriate it would be to celebrate Australia Day on the first Tuesday in November rather than the 26th of January.

Melbourne Cup and Anzac Day are the two collective days on the Australian calendar that unite our people more than any other. For many one begins with darkness and remembers great losses, the other ends in darkness trying to forget great losses.

As one writer, far more talented than I can ever hope to be, once suggested: ‘Both capture elements of the larrikinism and egalitarian impulse that are embedded deep within this nation’s unique spirit.’

All of which again raises the perennial questions: Why is Cup Day, one of our quintessential annual rituals, not a national public holiday? And, what could be more appropriate than celebrating Australia Day on the first Tuesday in November?

The wowsers and cultural wankers continue to insist that we should not tell the world how strongly we feel about a horse race. That’s bullshit! There can’t be too many events more Australian than the Melbourne Cup – so what better time to celebrate our national day?

Australia doesn't have many traditions. Attempts to get Halloween off the ground have stalled due to one too many home-owners telling little kiddies to ‘piss off.’ Australia's equivalent of America's Thanksgiving Day is Australia Day on January 26, commemorating the landing of the First Fleet of convicts in Botany Bay.

One could argue that there is much more emotional resonance in celebrating pioneering pilgrims who broke bread with the natives than there is in celebrating criminals that stole bread and were duly hung.

Needless to say, Australia has no tradition of putting the old ball and chain on our legs, and subsequently walking us down the street in tribute to the founding fathers. Likewise, Australia has no statues of the pioneering convicts holding up their shackled wrists in triumph!

Whilst many national days around the world involve citizens reflecting on the achievements of the ancestors that they have not personally lived up to, Australia’s national day involves citizens acting in a vastly superior way to the people that the date acknowledges.

Many believe that the 26th of January is an inappropriate date for Australia Day as it merely represents the arrival of the British to establish the penal colony of New South Wales. Others believe it insults the ‘rightful owners of our land – the indigenous population.’

They argue that it does not represent the birth of a nation. Which brings me back to my original point – when you consider that Australia’s top three heroes are a cricketer, a racehorse and a bushranger – perhaps it is fitting the only times the nation stops as one is to commemorate our war heroes and to have a wager on the Cup.

As a celebration of free speech and freedom I'll go out on a limb and say it: For many Australia Day simply celebrates the worst aspects of our national character, where rather than being a day for thoughtful reflection on our history and our values, it’s degenerated into a half-witted contest to see how much meat you can eat and how much grog you can sink.

This isn’t a wowser’s warning against barbeques and beer. Far from it! I’m a keen supporter of a drink with my mates and I’ve never met a meat product I didn’t adore. But as the basis for a national holiday, getting plastered, while standing around a four-burner which is groaning under the weight of calcified chump chops, seems to place us well down the order of intelligence. Sadly, for many, this is what Australia Day has become, and all it will ever be.

A piss-up, where the closest we get to a consideration of what makes us who we are is to slur that this is God’s own country, an absolute bottler of a joint, you wouldn’t be dead for quids and yeah, while you’re near the Esky, can you get me another one?

Even the Federal Government’s Australia Day campaign is framed around the banal idea of cooking meat, with advertisements featuring Soviet-style imagery of buffed young Aussies proudly holding meat trays, urging us to ‘Barbeque like you have never barbequed before.’

My concern is that many Australians are stuck at the first hurdle and can’t get their minds past the chops and the FOUREX. The two things which should be the focus of this national day – reflection on our history and values, and the importance of holding citizenship – are being shoved aside as we treat Australia Day like one big barbie.

And for every group of kids who use it as a chance to proudly and peacefully drape themselves in the flag and parade along the esplanade – indifferent to the fact that they’re demonstrating national pride with an emblem that’s sullied by another country’s ensign – there’s a few rat bags who imbue the practice with pushiness and hostility. As if failure to fly the flag or join the moronic ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,’ chant is tantamount to treason.

Certainly food for thought but for me and my mates no Australia Day would be complete without a punt – and there are plenty of opportunities whether you want to head to the track, the local pub or club, or just enjoy a barbie at home and watch them go around on the box.

There are race meetings for the traditionalists - the G2 Australia Stakes under lights at Moonee Valley; Warwick Farm in Sydney and Doomben in Brisbane. But those looking for something different can head to the extremely popular OZ day attractions at Hanging Rock in Victoria or Kilcoy in south-east Queensland.

How much more Australian can you get than Hanging Rock Cup Day? No racecourse in the country attracts more non-race day visitors than the Rock. The scene of a book and a film (Picnic at Hanging Rock) draws tourists from throughout the world.

Racing at Hanging Rock is a tradition with some families over generations that never attend races elsewhere. They make the annual pilgrimage each year hail, rain or shine and it has become a way of life for many.

Queensland race-goers have labeled Kilcoy the ‘Moonee Valley of the North’ with dozens of coaches traditionally bringing thousands to the Australia Day race meeting. Famous more for its steak-burgers and pies than the flies that settle on anything that doesn’t move, Kilcoy has proved a great survivor of country racing in Queensland largely due to the efforts of a team led by popular administrator, nurseryman and bookie Con Searle.

There are no rituals that everybody undertakes on Australia Day although some of us would argue that should include a day on the punt. People will celebrate with family and friends at home, in parks, in the surf, watching and playing sport - or simply enjoying yet another public holiday.

Sadly, very few will be able to articulate anything about why we should celebrate Australia Day on January 26th, let alone move the holiday to that first Tuesday in November.

 

THIS IS GODFREY SMITH SAYING ENJOY A PUNT ON OUR SPECIAL DAY EVEN IF IT SHOULD BE THE FIRST TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER AND SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOU.

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