Whilst fulminating about the term “unaustralian” being bandied around this country by registered clubs trying to con us about the disasters of precommittment on poker machine gambling, and having almost decided to publicly align myself with this “disgraceful” group, I got into my car to make the journey to Canberra, our nation’s capital.
My mood lifted as I drove from the narrow strip of countryside where I live, bounded on one side by the magnificent Pacific Ocean lapping golden sands and on the other side by a long, beautiful jewelled lake system. I drove over the Hawkesbury River, blue and stately, winding its way between steep gum tree covered cliffs. Passing Sydney, a grand city located on a world famous harbor, I wound through countryside resplendent with golden wattles in full springtime bloom, past our Southern Highlands, over rolling grazing country until at dusk I espied in the distance the twinkling lights of Canberra, the city of my birth.
Although some call this city sterile, and indeed it does have a man made lake (the real lake nearby doing the “unaustralian” thing of completely disappearing every 50 years or so), Canberra presented as a beautiful sight with its glowing lights backed by blue-black mountains now barely touched by the setting sun. The sky was ruddy behind the city but just a few stars twinkled already heralding the imminent arrival of the Southern Cross in the night sky. What a truly splendid country!
I have travelled and have lived and worked overseas and seen much beauty, yet I love Australia, from the long white beaches of its west coast, from whence my family hails, through its desert heartland where my parents lived in Broken Hill for some years, to the Snowy Mountains where I was educated and to Sydney, which holds my heart. This is my homeland.
I also love its people. I love my family, boisterous, argumentative and accepting.
I love my friends, eclectic, egalitarian and loyal.
I love my starry-eyed grandchildren, eager to grasp the opportunities life gives them in this wonderful land. I love the grandmother of some of them, a sweet, kind Muslim woman who has more courage in her little finger than I have in my whole body. I hope they, and this country, can learn from such as she.
I love my niece, currently being an excellent unofficial ambassador for this country overseas, whose Japanese father helped give her stunning beauty, a clever mind and her generous heart.
I love them all and they love me despite my faults.
And I have many of them. For a start I am a sheila, and a feminist one at that. I speak out firmly for my principles. I am a pacifist and as a student have demonstrated strongly on many issues, particularly when to demonstrate against the ethos of the Anzac Day March from the Town Hall steps (after first attending the Dawn Service) was not unusual in this land. I agree with Chris Hedges in his view of nationalists who drape themselves in flags www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges. I have not had a great deal of respect for our political representatives over the last quarter century and I can’t stand gambling because of all the damage it does, and can’t even abide the Melbourne Cup.
On the other hand I adhere strongly to what I have always felt were core Australian values. I love cricket, believe in a fair go for everyone and I support the underdog. (Isn’t it time we felt just a little bit sorry for the All Blacks?) I genuinely believe “we have boundless plains to share.”
Yet, for the past ten years or more, people such as myself have been regarded as “unaustralian”. This occurs when we resent those draped in our flag who berate others who are different, or every time we don’t agree with decisions of our political masters and now, the latest, because we want to prevent tawdry registered clubs ripping off the unfortunate so the rest of us can have a cheap meal and a cheap schooner whenever we feel like it.
Come compatriots (or even cobbers). Do not stand for this verbal (and sometimes neon lit) abuse. Do not, as I did on setting out on this journey, contemplate officially joining the ranks of the “unaustralian”. We are all entitled to view the world in our own ways and fight for what we think is right. This is a country for all of us. We are too savvy to be conned by these cheap tricks designed to denigrate our opinions.
We can be proudly Australian and that includes us all.