Reflecting on Australia Day

Reflecting on Australia Day

With another Australia Day now past us, we have an opportunity to reflect on our nation and the reasons why it's cherished by so many of those who live here, those who have decided to call Australia home and the many millions more who wish to do.

Of course, Australia is blessed with a “wide brown land” of diverse landscapes, natural beauty and abundant resources. But what truly sets Australia apart is its people and its institutions.

Australia is a vibrant tapestry of cultures that have converged to create one of the most harmonious and prosperous multicultural societies in the world. Migrants have brought with them their skills, talents, cultures, and traditions, which have enriched our society in many ways.

I regularly attend and speak at citizenship ceremonies in the City of Hume, Mitchell Shire, and Whittlesea.

The elation and joy on the face of new migrants receiving their citizenship is something that cannot be replicated. What other country elicits such national pride?

Much like the migrants of today, those that came before them were aspirational, looking for a better future for themselves and their families. Some of the earliest migrants arrived in Australia as convicts, against their will. Nonetheless, each generation of migrants has made a special contribution to Australia.

The first Australians represent some of the oldest continuing cultures in the world, consisting of hundreds of different groups with ancient traditions, knowledge, and connection to the land.

It is hard to overlook the earliest European migrants. When James Cook mapped the eastern part of Australia for Britain, and when migration from Britain began in earnest 18 years later, those people brought with them their institutions and their values.

These institutions include the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy and common law that underpin our state and our nation. It is the belief in freedom, including the freedom to express one’s opinions and beliefs, to practise (or abstain from practising) a religion, equality under the law and dignity for all.

These institutions and values are what has enabled Australia to become one of the most desirable, prosperous, and harmonious multicultural nations in the world. Australia has the 14th largest economy in the world, despite only being the 54th largest in terms of population. According to the World Happiness Report, Australia is the 12th happiest. Australians are fortunate to have an excellent quality of life, including great opportunities, healthcare, and education.

Of course, Australia is not perfect – no country is – and the ability to critique our nation can allow us to improve. I accept that Australia Day means different things to different people and for some Indigenous Australians it is a source of pain.

However, many activists wanting to change the date of Australia Day argue for Australia Day to be abolished, as if Australia is not a country worth celebrating.

Yet, if we accept that Australia is a great multicultural nation and Victoria is a great multicultural state then we should celebrate on our national day. We should never lose sight of this by welcoming unrealistic negativity into the debate.

The Melbourne Australia Day Parade was cancelled for a third year in a row. It was disappointing to recently see Jacinta Allan attempt to deflect blame onto the City of Melbourne, rather than showing leadership by celebrating our great country.

My late grandparents Teresa and Domenico Caruso arrived in Australia by boat from a small town called Lamezia Terme in Calabria, Italy. They arrived in the 1950s with nothing but a suitcase and worked incredibly hard to put everything they could into their children and their education.

I think it shows the promise of Australia, an indeed Victoria, that you can go from one generation arriving by boat with nothing but a suitcase to their grandson representing our vibrant multicultural communities in the Victorian Parliament.

So many migrants’ families share similar stories of opportunity created by our great nation. These are all worth celebrating.

 

Evan Mulholland is the Liberal Member for the Northern Metropolitan Region.

Giuseppe Buzzi and his fried fish shop

Giuseppe Buzzi and his fried fish shop

February 20th, 2024 - Julie Bevan
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