Australia Day: Give us a break

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Who’ll be Australian Of The Year? On second thoughts, who cares? Just get those annoying dignitaries off-stage and let us enjoy our day off in peace. Dominic Knight winces at the embarrassing excesses of patriotism that are trotted out on Australia Day.


Australia Day is always a poxy holiday, but the National Australia Day Council (australiaday.gov.au) has outdone itself this year.
The fun kicked off on Monday in Kalgoorlie when the Governor-General and Dr Fiona Wood, last year’s Australian of the Year, “visited the Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame to celebrate all that’s great about Australia and being Australian”.
Like crap tourist attractions, apparently.
Later, Khoa Do, last year’s Young Australian of the Year “[talked] with the Governor-General about what Australia Day means to us as a nation”. The gold capital hasn’t had this much excitement since someone last dinged their ute in the main street.
The awkward patriotism continues tonight on Ten with the Australia Day Live concert, live from the Parliament House lawns from 8.30pm. As with all events nowadays, there will be a mandatory performance by Russell Crowe’s band The Ordinary Fear of God – personally, I fear Russ singing more than God. Before the concert, the Australian of the Year will be named.
While the winner is shrouded in mystery, I can reveal one thing. He will be male, white and not young, because that’s true of all eight candidates: how far we’ve come since 1788! That said, there are several excellent nominees. With luck, John Howard will display visible discomfort if Tim Costello or Michael Kirby gets up.
As for the big day itself, what would an Australian event be without B-grade celebrities? Of the Australia Day ambassadors I’ve actually heard of, actor Michael Caton will be in Scone, while Ian “Turps” Turpie will be rocking Holbrook and, and, best of all, Don Burke will be in Bourke.
Most cringeworthy of all is the council’s promotion of loyalty pledges in TV ads. “All new citizens make a pledge of commitment to Australia and its people. On Australia Day, shouldn’t we all?” they ask.
Absolutely not. We aren’t America, with its in-your-face patriotism and tacky pledges of allegiance. Not giving a stuff about wanky notions of Australian identity outside of sport is probably the most notable aspect of being Australian.
Ultimately, the only parts of the day that genuinely reflect our culture are two-up games and the sickie everyone will take on Friday.

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