Today is a national holiday. We celebrate Australia Day on the 26th January each year. You can read more information on the Wikipedia Australia Day entry and here is a short extract:
Australia Day (previously known as Anniversary Day, Foundation Day, and ANA Day) is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.
So even this short introduction brings up some interesting issues for Dutch Australians:
The first Europeans to “discover” Australia were the Dutch, when in 1606, the crew of the Duyfken landed on Cape York Peninsula. However they chose not to settle there, so the first settlement wasn’t until 1788, which is what we celebrate today. When I was living in The Netherlands, there was a wonderful celebration in 2006 of 400 years of relations between the two countries and I’ll share some stories about that in another post. For many years, even after settlement, Australia was known as New Holland and again, an interesting article on Wikipedia.
Australia was of course already inhabited when the Europeans arrived. An alternate name given to Australia Day by some Indigenous Australians is “Invasion Day” and I can definitely understand this view. We are heading in the right direction with reconciliation but I feel still need more recognition and acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land. There are some proposals that we change the date of celebration.
Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Though the first settlers may have been British, due to our history of emigration, we have residents here in Australia from all around the world. Personally, my father came to Australia as an Italian refugee in the war and my mother is born to parents with British and Italian heritage. I love that you can look around in any city of Australia into a sea of faces, all from obvious mixed cultural backgrounds.
So what does Australia Day mean to you? To me, I feel it’s a chance for everyone to celebrate together, regardless of our history and background. We live in an amazing country. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but overall this is a wonderful place to live. As I write the sun is shining (after a few days of bucketing rain!), the cicadas are singing and we live amongst great opportunities for our children to grow up safe, healthy & happy. Whether you were born in Australia, have moved here or are here temporarily, may Australia Day be a great celebration of joy for you, your friends and your family.
Here is a video my little Dutch Australians did last night: