I love Australia Day. We have a day to celebrate everything that is great about our nation, and let’s face it – almost everything about Australia is great. I was in Bondi earlier this week and as I walked along Campbell Parade in my thongs, boardies and obligatory Dubbo bucket hat, I was stopped by a Chinese film crew outside Maccas. They were doing a story on the fact that only in Australia is the chain of Golden Arches officially labelled Maccas. They wanted to know my thoughts on this. I explained to the interviewer that it is easy to create a nickname in Australia. Keep just the first syllable and add an ‘O’, ‘A’ or ‘Y’ at the end. Look at some simple examples from the Australian cricket team. Matthew Wade becomes Wadey. James Pattinson is the obvious Patto. The trickier to pronounce Usman Khawaja turns into the much easier Uzzy. Ben Hilfenhaus is known as Hilfy. Jason Krejza is sane but known as Krazy. Nathan Hauritz is Horry (hopefully never followed with bull). Adam Gilchrist is Gilly. Stuart MacGill is not to be confused with a food chain in being known as Macca. And with all the material for nicknames at our disposal, Shane Warne becomes the way too simple Warnie. It is part of our great Aussie irreverence that we all see each other as equals. It doesn’t matter if you are the Prime Minister (Johnny or Julesy) or a Nobel Prize literature winner (Whitey) or a Golden Globe winner (Jacko), there are very few airs and graces in our society. This doesn’t result in a lack of respect – on the contrary, it can demonstrate significantly more respect to all of our fellow citizens.
I tried to encapsulate all of this in the 10 second grab for the film crew but I don’t think they really ‘got it’. Warring nations around the world could promote peace talks by sending delegates to Australia Day celebrations. Let them witness the laconic, laid-back, cheeky attitude that permeates our society and they will see that there are more important aspects to life than fighting with neighbouring lands. Most Aussies would know more about where the Australian cricket team was touring next (India) than where our Australian Defence Forces are currently deployed (Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, Solomon Islands plus another seven countries).
Australia Day is also about recognition. At a local level we have the chance to recognise five award-winners who are achieving at an incredibly high-level in our community. I thoroughly enjoy reviewing the applications of nominees and the reality is that any of them would be worthy award-winners. Across the nation, communities honour their own local award-winners and we witness the Prime Minister honour award-winners of national significance. We also have a special treat this year, with one of our residents presented with a National Medal at our ceremony.
One of the greatest thrills I personally receive is in conducting the citizenship ceremony. We have a record number of residents (19) involved in the proceedings today. The hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention every time I read the message from the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, and as I watch the faces of our newest citizens beam with honour. What a great way to spend your first day as an Aussie – a public holiday! True Aussie style.
One of the greatest parts of being an Aussie is acceptance. We are a true multicultural society and we accept people from all different backgrounds and beliefs. Two years ago we had our first Muslim play for the elite Australian cricket team (the Pakistan-born Uzzy). At a Council level, we need to understand the needs of people in our society – not everyone is from the same background and not everyone has the same needs. My hope for the future of Australia is that, in the same way we accept people from across the world to our great nation, the people that choose to live in Australia accept the traditions and customs of the country they are moving to. I have been disappointed when I have heard of people taking offence at celebrations of Christmas Day or Easter or even Australia Day itself. Why anyone would complain about receiving a public holiday I am not sure – but on a more serious note these are all parts of our society. I won’t apologise for celebrating Christmas in Australia in the same way that I won’t condemn a Muslim for pausing shortly after noon each day to perform the Dhuhr prayer.
I wish you all the best as you celebrate everything that is Aussie this weekend. Tell me your favourite part about Australia Day at email@example.com
Clr Mathew Dickerson
Mayor of the City of Dubbo