Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Painfully, Australia Day 2020 will be celebrated under the shadow of the smoke haze of one of the most horrendous bushfire seasons in history. Dozens of lives lost. Thousands of homes destroyed. Millions of hectares decimated. Billions of animals killed. Our nation, steely and resilient though we are, bear a scar that will be slow to heal, but we can be confident that we will indeed heal. We have toiled and continue to toil with hearts and hands to be sure that we do.
One thing above all else has stood out in my mind during the hideousness of the past few months. The fear and uncertainty that followed as people fled the path of the Dunn’s Road fire, or stayed to fight it on New Year’s Eve; as we tried to contact family; as we got word of the losses sustained by neighbours, friends, and family: all pales in comparison to the cooperation, the unity, the bravery, and the charity that was demonstrated time and time again. In the midst of the fear and the chaos I have seen my countrymen become a force to be reckoned with, against which these fires nor any force of nature has had a smidgen of a chance. As evacuees, the communities that welcomed us left us wanting for nothing. As land owners, our neighbours and volunteers did not leave us short of help. And, as constituents, despite the ravings of unaffected people from the safety of their leafy suburbs, our elected representatives did not leave us without support.
As we celebrate Australia Day with the smell of smoke still permeating our homes and our country still black and charred, we have never been so confident in that which we are really celebrating: each other. Australians. Our response to the tragedies that we have witnessed since October have shown us beyond any doubt that we have something worth celebrating. Our history, though tainted with regret, has ultimately led us to a place that I will always and unashamedly call good. For a brief moment it seemed that the bushfires ravaging our country would overshadow the usual controversy that always follows us awkwardly into our national day and attempts to place guilt on our shoulders. In the last few days however, it has become clear that the nonsense was only belated. It is easy to understand the point of view held by those who wish (far too noisily) to see the date of Australia Day moved and the calendar of national days and celebrations broadly deconstructed. The reason being the arrival of the first fleet, spear-headed by Arthur Phillip, perceptively being conflated with “invasion” followed by a murderous period tainted by injustice and potent racism. It is well known that the official policy toward the indigenous population was explicitly one of friendship and cooperation. Unfortunately, that policy was not always followed. The successes and failures of the fledgling colonies, and later a fledgling commonwealth, were no doubt tarnished with injustices and blemished consciences. But to use the term “invasion” and to infer that injustice was restricted to or aimed at racial lines can only be the result of dishonest historical analysis.
I see no conclusion in which the type of history that some portray ours as being, could lead to the type of community spirit that has united us and brought us through any hard time such as this. Our history, in fact, no matter how spotted, has culminated in a society in which we just saw, and continue to see, unity among all, regardless of gender, race, religion or status. Even half a thought, if guided by reason, will tell that the kind of community spirit we have seen could not possibly be the result of a purely unjust, racist or criminal history. While acknowledging the crimes and injustices that have undoubtedly occurred, I will always be unreservedly and unashamedly proud of the kind of society and community that our history has produced.We have seen the true nature of Australia: tough, charitable, selfless, courageous and united. That is the Australia that we celebrate on January 26 and with toil and effort we will ensure that our children can celebrate Australia for the very same reasons.Happy Australia Day!
WE ARE A PEOPLE, AS AUSTRALIANS, WHO PREVAIL. NOT THROUGH LUCK, OR CHANCE, OR FORTUNE, BUT BY THE EFFORTS AND INTELLECT, AND WILLINGNESS, AND DETERMINATION TO STAND, ONE WITH EACH OTHER. SO THAT’S WHAT WE CELEBRATE THIS AUSTRALIA DAY.
— PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA, THE HON. SCOTT MORRISON