On my first year in Australia, I was pretty excited when Australia Day came around and mentioned it to a colleague in passing. Unexpectedly, the colleague scoffed and said “Bogan Day”.
At that time, I did not understand the difference between Australia Day and Singapore’s National Day. Growing up in Singapore, National Day was a big thing. You see, Singapore was probably the only country that gain independence against its will. We basically got kicked out of the house when we were a young nation by our older brother (Malaysia). Forced to survive on our own, we made it by working damn hard and “punching above our weight”.
Every year, come National Day, it was a day for us to be proud of. On that day, our family will sit down in front of the TV in the evening to watch the National Day Parade. It starts off with a grand military parade, where we get to show off our shiny military hardware. It reminds every Singapore male, who is conscripted into 2 years of mandatory military service, that there is something bigger than self. It reminds us that 2 years of blood, sweat and toil that each of us gave means we can stand up on the world stage as an independent country.
I was expecting Australia Day to have the same sort of patriotic, unifying effect on the Australians. Unfortunately, as I learnt more about it, I realised how divisive this day is. Much have been said about the hurt to the Aboriginal community; there’s nothing more I can add to this conversation. Two articles this year especially stood out for me. Firstly, a white Australian perspective on how Australia Day didn’t mean much to him. Secondly, a fresh take from Stan Grant on how changing the date the easy way out.
I shy away from personally commenting on issues like this - politics can be divisive, even when it doesn’t have to be. I know that I will never be accepted as a true Australian (and that is fine), so I don’t draw attention, or pretend my words matter.
But what I’d like to say is how proud I am to be part of this country. Understand that racism and biases exists in almost every place in the world. For Australians to be able to acknowledge its existence, to have a conversation about it, means that we have the ability to change for the better. This, in my humble opinion, puts us way ahead of other countries. I hope more Australians will recognise this current debate is actually a strength, and not a weakness.