Australia Day, a holiday in which some Australians apparently feel the need to inflict their Australianess upon anyone whom they don’t feel is Australian enough, has come and gone with a minimum of incident.

Personally, I really dislike the jingoistic display of Nationalism that goes with the holiday. It’s tasteless and crass, and for the most part meaningless for a great many White Australians who dwell eternally in some kind of isolated limbo outpost of the British Isles and resolutely still attempt to conjure the Green and Pleasant Land in a continent that is predominately desert.*

Most Australians are, even today, foreigners living in a strange land and I wonder if the hoo-ha of Australia Day is just a desperate attempt to reassure our group consciousness that yes, we really truly belong here.

The self-delusion is intriguingly illuminated in the words of our National Anthem:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing,
“Advance Australia fair!”

Beneath our radiant southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

Let’s examine some of those extravagant claims:

‘We are young and free’

Our population, like most of the Western World is aging, so generally speaking we are not young. Free? Well, I guess that depends on your point of view. Australian citizen David Hicks is not exactly free. And people who don’t kiss the flag are not exactly free. But I guess ‘Some of us are young and most of us are free’ doesn’t scan so well.

‘We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil’

Not right now we don’t. We’ve got parched deserts of red earth that blows up in vast dry dust storms. We’ve got crackling-dry eucalyptus forests that burst into flames at the touch of a discarded cigarette butt. We are experiencing the worst recorded drought in Colonial White history. Farmers are going out of business faster than you can say ‘Tie me kangaroo down sport’.

‘Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;’

This is true. Hardly anyone notices however, because they are too busy clearing Nature’s gifts with bulldozers to build shopping centres or digging up the abundant land to get at the coal underneath.

‘Beneath our radiant southern Cross,’

Sadly, our Radiant Southern Cross is not very visible through the pollution in most capital cities, Australia being as it is, the highest producer of CO2 per capita of any country in the world.

‘For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share’

Boundless plains of bone-dry dirt made worse by the aforementioned clearing of Nature’s gifts. Which we’ll share with you if you demonstrate the proper Aussie Valuesâ„¢

Moving on, it’s also interesting to examine some of the verses of the National Anthem that are left out of the Official Version:

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
“Brittannia rules the wave!

In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

Shou’d foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean’s roll,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep a British soul
In joyful strains the let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

The execrable language is crime enough (‘We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore’? Puh-leeze!) but the toadying up to The Empire is, I fear, something that still runs deep in Australian psyche. True, we toady to a different Empire these days, but there’s a distinct smell of ‘once a crawler, always a crawler’.

If it was me, I’d flush the whole thing down the dunny and replace it with something much more beautiful:

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies –
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

With some hint of poetry like those immortal words of Dorothea McKellar running through all our veins, maybe we might at last shake off our 19th Century Empirical shackles and grow to love this country for what it is rather than remain hell-bent on demeaning it as a source of plunder and something to be conquered for our materialistic gain.

Maybe then Australia Day will mean something more than just waving a flag.


*Including the Prime Minister, John Howard, and his cabinet, who doggedly resist efforts to discard the outdated English monarchy and allow Australians to have the republic that should be ours if we were really sincere about advancing Australia fair with any kind of ‘courage’ like it says in the song…