Australia Day was my favourite day of the year once, for many reasons. I’m using the word ‘was’ here, because it’s not anymore. To begin with, I’m a well travelled man by anyone’s standards. So in saying that...despite some potential subconscious biases I still truly believe we live in the greatest country in the world.
Let me briefly tell you why I believe this to be true.
The diversity we have in Australia between the land and ocean is mesmerising, to the point where you gasp in awe at its raw beauty.
As Dorothy Mackellar wrote in 1904...
‘I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged 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 land helped shape it’s people and our values. For example, creating a ‘no worries mate’ type culture...meaning nothing is a big drama, because well...look at where we live!
However what I am most intrigued about, mainly because of the depths and mysteries surrounding its history...is the fact that Australia is home to the oldest living culture on earth.
There is what is thought to be 75,000 years of Aboriginal colonisation and history in Australia...with some of the oldest rock art paintings and artefacts found right here on our ancient soils.
The philosophies and principles the indigenous lived by can only be described as wholesome and spiritual, they lived as if they were a part of nature.
This means they were living through nature itself...breathing through every tree, every river and every rock on the ocean floors. They could communicate with their ancestors through the natural world and could access tens of thousands of years worth of knowledge through the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Some clans in Australia still practise these traditions and beliefs to this day.
However some of that knowledge, that ability to spiritually connect with nature itself has long gone. Not all of it, but it’s no secret that urbanisation and western culture has entirely transformed the traditional way of life.
Knowing that, would you be angry at whoever allowed or forced such a valuable concept and practise to be lost forever? Sad even?
Would you then be frustrated and angry that the people originally responsible for that lost knowledge actually celebrate that day as a statement of victory and ‘claim of ownership’ of the land they’ve loved for thousands of years prior without proper acknowledgement of the consequences of such?
To some, the meaning behind 26th January (Australia Day) has brought great pain. It was the end of indigenous life as we knew it. To others, it was triumphant.
I’ve stayed out of the whole ‘change Australia Day’ debate until now. Mainly because I’ve been observing the divided public and political opinions and responses develop over the last few years so I can provide a balanced view and response.
I think now it’s time to speak up. Australia Day to me, in the past was about celebrating everything that it is to be Australian...as one people. I don’t think it achieves that now, at least not for me anyway.
Somewhere along the way the day lost its meaning, mainly because of the controversy surrounding the date itself.
Changing the date won’t change a thing, unless we change the meaning we give it.
That day did in fact mark the start of horrific massacres and introduction of diseases that had detrimental impacts to indigenous populations.
This is the truth of our settlement, but it is not our current truth. The generation that stands here today fight together, not against each other. The past now needs to stay in the past, so we can all heal and move forward.
Neither meaning given to the 26th of victory of European colonisation or pain is the right way forward, because it further divides our race and cultures.
Neither are campaign slogans like ‘always was, always will be’. That slogan is a consequence of frustration, not traditional indigenous belief.
This land belongs to no one, we belong to the land...when we are gone, we become the land. ‘Owning it’ is a false perception of reality...and not the truth.
The truth is, we can’t afford division in a world that faces existential threats like climate change.
Do I think we can create unity by keeping the date as it stands? No I don’t. But just changing the date won’t either. We need to give the day an entirely new meaning.
It needs to be a symbol for Hope...a call for unity and togetherness.
A day that marks a rebirth for our culture and people, where we right the wrongs of the past and walk together, as one country.
A day where the past is acknowledged and a clear vision for the future comes to life, which gives us all a chance to celebrate the present.
So...let’s change the date. Let the new date be announced by our Prime Minister on a day that is neutral for us all...black or white.
Let it be a day that we can ALL celebrate this incredible country we live in, together...as one people.
I am, you are...we are Australian. And we always will be.
*) Khory Hancock (known as The Environmental Cowboy) is a country boy & Environmental Scientist on a journey that aims to inspire a complete regeneration of our forests, oceans and soils. He is an Environmental Scientist with a vision to empower others to regenerate our natural world ultimately creating a more sustainable future for our world.
Climate change is by far the biggest threat the world faces and Khory (aka The Environmental Cowboy) is starting an industry wide movement to drastically reduce our carbon emissions (by using renewable energy) and capitalise on the economic and social opportunities to draw it back down out of the atmosphere and store it safely in our oceans, forests and soils (carbon farming).
Khory originally comes from a 30 000 acre cattle station on Carnarvon Gorge, central Queensland, Australia. Growing up on the land helping his family run cattle for a living taught him basic sustainability principles - about giving back and looking after the land so that it could continue to support us. Khory now works as an environmental professional across many different industries including carbon farming, land management and rehabilitation, water management, regenerative agriculture and Light Rail (public transport). He is a highly sought after public speaker and social media influencer that provides solutions to the environmental challenges we face at an individual and company level. He uses the 'cowboy' persona to communicate the messages more effectively to the public. Join The Environmental Cowboy for adventure after adventure that inspires and is full of laughs for all!
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