Australians can’t bring themselves to celebrate Australia Day with much enthusiasm.
Try as they might, successive governments have wanted to inspire us to celebrate the landing of The First Fleet but the whole thing has been a failure. There are several reasons for this, in my opinion.
First of all, the original settlers usually came here against their will- as convicts or policemen. So we lack the sense of discovery and liberation that the U.S.A experienced. When you come in chains it does dull the gloss of the occasion a little bit. As a convict colony of the British we were not celebrating our arrival downunder.
Secondly, there were terrible hardships for the early colonists who would have preferred to return home to a climate and terrain that were more familiar and certainly more suitable for their fair skins. But of course, they couldn’t, so they had to make the most of it.
For many decades England was still regarded as home even if it had treated the Aussies badly.
Sadly, by the time that Australia gained some national pride on the world stage, patriotism and nationalism became unpopular concepts. Somehow, it seemed too ethnocentric to be running around waving the Aussie flag. Besides, the Aussie flag was too British and not distinctive enough to be our own. It is still not Aussie enough and is too much of a reminder of the colonial days.
By contrast, the U.S.A was sensible enough to break the British connection and I believe that made it more patriotic. What we really need is an Independence Day, a break from earlier apologetic attitudes. This will probably not happen until the monarchy gives us up. Quite frankly, I suspect that the Queen of England is puzzled by our lack of independence. Is it apathy? We do have a “No worries, be happy” attitude to most things, except sport, of course. I’m convinced we could go to war for sport. Seriously, though, I believe that we feel more Australian on Anzac Day than on Australia Day.
So here we are, still stuck in the past with a monarchy that we don’t care about and a flag that is not really ours.
Another factor which influences the way we regard Australia Day is that for a while it was viewed as Invasion Day by the Aborigines, especially during the self-flagellating reconciliation period which was pretty unsuccessful. There was no real reconciliation between the whites and the Aborigines but some whites began to feel guilty about being “invaders” themselves.
It was enough to deflate any patriotism that an Aussie might feel for his country.
Don’t get me wrong. Aussies love Australia but they find it hard to be openly nationalistic the way older nations are.
But it’s very intriguing that when I try to think of what is Aussie food I can’t think of anything at all. I can think of French food, German food, Russian food, Italian food, and all the Asian foods that we have, but nothing stands out as being Australian. If truth be told, we don’t enjoy kangaroo meat, in spite of the promotions. I’ve tasted it and it’s not good. Besides, it’s eaten so rarely that it can’t be considered as a national dish.
There was such a thing as Aussie food when I first came to Australia. It was actually English food which was not very appetising. There was lamb roast, pie and chips, a boiled chook (chicken). Most migrants avoided that kind of dull English fare.
But after the migrants arrived and opened up “ethnic restaurants” food became more edible. Nowadays, there are all kinds of dishes from all over the world. We love Italian pizzas and pasta. We love French cuisine (not nouvelle, however) and we particularly enjoy Thai and Chinese food. Sushi restaurants are always the most packed eating places in malls. Aussies love the choice. There are a few ‘olde’ English pubs with English pies too.
What we do lack, however, is Eastern European and German food. It would be great to have more Hungarian restaurants, for example, but perhaps our climate prevents us from enjoying such heavier meals. I live in hope.
Nowadays, we are a real melting pot when it comes to food and the latest popular crazes are Moroccan, Turkish and Persian cuisines. This probably reflects a recent trend in immigration and makes for fascinating eating.
It’s quite possible, therefore, that my not being able to identify Australian food is simply the result of years of immigration. Each culture has brought its own food and we are the richer for it.