When the implications of the scheduling of our trip dawned upon me, I couldn’t imagine anything more unAustralian than flying to New Zealand on Australia Day. We had an appointment with a bbq, beers and the beach at Killy for the sweet tunes of Triple J’s hottest 100. It would have ticked a lot of boxes. Yet we were giving all that up, opting for jandels, chillybins, hobbits and trum in Choicebroland. Sam Kekovitch would be bloody outraged. But the more I thought about it, the more appropriate the timing of the trip seemed. After all, it was Invasion Day that we were leaving on. The day when the nation pauses to celebrate the arrival of a bunch of criminals, miscreants and misfits from the motherland.
It is apt to indulge in some self-reflection on our national holiday and that is what I did on the flight across the ditch. For mine, there is a lot to love about the Australia but also a fair bit to loathe. On the up side, we have deep-fried dim sims, the black death and incredible beaches. Our haphazard ethic brew has given us great coffee, amazing food and an interesting cultural mix. There is tremendous goodwill, people lend a hand when things go bad. There is a willingness to help friends and strangers when times are tough. Australia has tolerance, understanding and opportunity.
However, in many respects we still have a long way to go. Forgotten amidst all the chest thumping, flag waving celebration about the lucky country we often gloss over a fair bit: since the arrival of Jimmy Cook and his crib many of the locals live in third world conditions in one of the most prosperious nations on earth; there are 1003 children in our detention centres, having never been convicted nor committed any crime. There is racism, bigotry and ‘Two and a Half Men’ rates well. We are too piss-weak to stand on our own two feet and become a republic. What’s more, booze is expensive and the joint is a bit of a nanny state.
There are some pretty glaring black marks but at the end of the day I haven’t been anywhere else that I would rather live. I am proud to be Australian and I am taking that Australianess to New Zealand. For too long those damned kiwis have been crossing the ditch and taking all our unskilled jobs – in construction, hospitality and multimedia. I will strike back. I will buy Australian lamb. I will insist on getting five stars instead of four inked on my Southern Cross tattoo. I will make Sam Kekovitch proud.