What does it mean to be Australian?

Today, January 26, is the day we celebrate our Aussie-ness. Our family will be celebrating, even though we’re miles away. (Insert song like I Still Call Australia Home or my favourite, Great Southern Land – oh what the heck, I will). I think a game of backyard cricket is in order along with reminiscing about football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holdens.

So what does it mean to be Australian?

Most of us feel pretty special about our home. But the age of dad doing the lawn with the Victa on Saturday afternoon and of the painted cement Aborigine bought at the markets, chained to the gum tree in the front yard are essentially (thankfully) gone.

At Ignite Boulder (thanks for the pic, Andrea!)

The days where my mother would shove her skirt up the sides of her undies and sit with my father in the sticky loungeroom with a shandy, watching Dennis Lillee bowl another over… are over.

And long, glaring 35-degree sun-kissed days by Roselands pool covered in Reef Oil as we tried to fry a deeper brown have been left behind in favour of broad-brimmed hats and air-conditioning.

Australia has changed.

Have I just got older, or is it really that we have become a people so full of rich, different heritages that the mythical heroes of Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson are illuminated as something we really never had… and never will?

Why, on its own soil, has the Australian flag become a symbol of hatred and exclusion? When did that happen?

It seems I can wave the Aussie flag and invite Americans to “channel their inner Aussie” at a presentation and still, a year later, be greeted by “Oi Oi Oi!” in the streets of Boulder by some who saw me do it.

Americans sometimes seem to love my country even more than those who are lucky enough to live there.

Australia is a place where social security looks after those unlucky enough to need it, for as long as they need it. Where everyone can afford to get sick, because nobody is denied essential medical treatment. Where good quality education at all levels in the public system, in every location, is comparatively free.

Yes, I still believe Australia is the lucky country. I believe we’re a lucky people. I am proud of our flag the way it is, and even prouder of those who embrace it and each other, no matter their heritage.

So what does it mean to be Australian?

It means feeling that pull to your country, no matter who or where you are.

Happy Australia Day.

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