It was great to have a day off midweek. A welcome break from our busy lives. After 12 years of living in Australia and 10 years as a permanent resident, my husband was finally made a citizen. His ceremony was yesterday—that day that many Australians find difficult to celebrate. It was a lovely turnout with free food and drink. A local singer-songwriter performed. The sky was as blue as only Australia can achieve on a mid-summer day. We even had a local rogue wildlife infiltrating the proceedings—albeit a juvenile magpie—but he insisted on joining the celebrations.
Despite my discomfort at celebrating what many call Invasion Day, I was content to support my husband’s achievement.
The event was well attended by both dignitaries and the public—most of whom were family or friends of others receiving their citizenship certificates or those generous, tireless souls who go unrewarded.
The agenda began with issuing citizenship certificates to the new Aussies, and all went very well until the local Mayor took the stage. He shared with the audience how once he read out the new citizens’ names. He praised how well today’s Master of Ceremony pronounced all the names.
The mayor asked the new citizens if their names had been pronounced correctly.
I choked but held my tongue—after all, I didn’t want to make a scene at my husband’s ceremony. But seriously—if the names had been Smith or Jones, would he make that comment? No. The fact is, the remark was covertly racist. And let’s give the mayor allowance, he was possibly blissfully unaware of the intrinsic message.
I admit, once I’d recovered from our mayor’s guffaw, I became emotional; swept up in the benevolence surrounding me. Why can’t we have a day like this for everyone to enjoy?
Yes, we need a day to welcome new citizens (without racist slurs) and to acknowledge those among us who go above and beyond regularly. However, for it to be truly Australia Day, it must allow all Australians to celebrate after all—“with courage let us all combine”—and with courage and combined effort, we can choose a more suitable day to do this.
And while I have the soapbox, why not change the National Anthem—not one line refers to our First Nations Peoples?
It’s time to put our colonial past behind us and become that unified, democratic society we espouse.
My cheeky husband asked for a kiss from the most intelligent and articulate Catriona Rowntree.