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Australia Day 215

Australia celebrates the 215th anniversary of the arrival of 11 ships with 1,030 people on board, most of whom were convicts. The date 26th January was first proclaimed as a public holiday in 1838 and the common name "Australia Day" was adopted by all states in 1946. Oldest celebratory event is the Sydney Anniversary Regatta, first held in 1836.

In the first 100 years after arrival, the population grew at rate of 157%pa to 2.9 million. In the second 100 years to 1988 the growth rate was 23%pa to 16.5 million,reducing to 15.7% since 1988. In the words of the great Bruce Woodley song "We are one but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come". From the 2001 Census, 28.2% of Australians were born elsewhere and 46.3% have at least one parent who was born overseas.

But Australians still wrestle with unity of National essence and oscillate between ANZAC day and Australia Day as "the" national day. In the words of Tim Flannery's 2002 Australia Day speech "Australia the land, its climate and creatures and plants is the only thing that we all, uniquely, share in common. It is at once our inheritance, our sustenance, and the only force ubiquitous and powerful enough to craft a truly Australian people. It ought to and one day will define us as a people like no other." Perhaps the bushfire onslaught hard of the heels of another bad drought will nudge us further in this direction.

Posted Sunday, 26 January 2003

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