Yesterday, January 26th was Australia Day, our national day. Unlike the USA, where the national day is held on a day when independence was granted, Australia Day is celebrated on the day the first fleet from Britain landed filled to the brim with convicts, making us a penal
As an aside, it turns out that really the Brits were after Norfolk Island not Australia. They used the penal colony as a decoy so the French didn't realise what they were up too. You see, they needed a new supply of masts and flax to make sails for their navy and they thought Norfolk Island was the key. Sadly, they were disappointed as Norfolk Island pines are very weak wood and the flax didn't make good sails either. So they were stuck with a penal colony and all the on-costs of that. Ah, irony!
It took until January 1st 1901 until Australia became a united Federation and the Queen of England a figurehead only. Today there is still a push toward becoming a republic but every time there is a Royal tour that idea seems to fade somewhat.
On Australia Day we come together as a nation to celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It's the day for us to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.
There are also those in the wider community who share these mixed emotions about our national day, and they appreciate the efforts of event organisers to acknowledge that Australia Day evokes a variety of emotions. For the First Australians. the indigenous Australians, 26 January is an occasion to reflect on past loss and suffering.
There are Australia Day awards recognising service in all shapes and forms and it is also a day many migrants decide to adopt Australia as their country and they take up citizenship. They are given a certificate and a small native plant to mark this significant occasion.
For about 150 years, many Australians were embarrassed to say they were descended from convicts but in 1988, our 200th birthday, all that changed. People were out and proud about their heritage. Sadly, my family history is pretty boring...I am descended from Cornish miners who came to Australia for a new life. Probably to compensate for my lack of interesting heritage, I gave Matilda in Boomerang Bride some convict relatives who came out in 1788!
Boomerang Bride is now in print on the shelf in books shops all over the USA! To read more about the story head to my website.
Yesterday, my family attended a family day by the sea where there was a parade, free rides, fire works and community groups spruiking their activities. The smell of onions, sausages, falafels, souvlaki and ice cream filled the air....a true representation of our multicultural society.
I'd love to hear what you do in your neighbourhood on your national day!
Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Harlequin and Carina Press. Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the mid-west of the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts, and warm, likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she's not writing stories, she's a weekend wife, mother of two 'ginger' teenage boys, guardian of 80 rose bushes and often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at her website, facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.