Straya, Straya, Straya We Love You Amen

Couldn’t have had a more Australian Day this week – a very busy weekend which included a Rolf Harris open-air concert, the Australia Day Fireworks in Perth and a 5 hour round-trip through the South West.
After all that driving, I got to thinking that one of the defining qualities of Australia is distance. Moreso in the west than anywhere else, you’re able to find an open road and keep driving for hours at a stretch without changing borders, languages, counties, jurisdictions…. In some parts of the world, a 5 hour journey would require passports and border clearances, or at least, a couple of changes of local dialect. If there’s one thing that people get completely wrong about Australia, it’s the amount of time it takes to travel between significant locations.
There’s a lot of space here in Australia – which, in today’s geopolitical climate, is Not Such A Bad Thing.
Rolf put on a great show – originally scheduled for 2 hours, he performed for 3 and a half, with barely a dull moment. Probably most significantly, the concert was opened with a welcome by the traditional owners of the land on which the concert venue stood (Edith Cowan Uni in Joondalup). Although the content was confronting, (as one of the tribe elders related stories of her ancestors ill-fated encounters with white men) it’s the first time I’ve encountered such a co-ownership of an event by Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australians. I think that’s down to Rolf’s wide, wide appeal. The last time I’d seen such co-ownership was in New Zealand, where the relationship between indigenous and ‘imported’ populations is far more inclusive. Still dysfunctional, but there is acknowledgement of Maori traditions throughout NZ culture. I’d like to see that happen in Australia, somehow. I think that concert was a good example – especially as a part of the Australia Day celebrations, typically an anniversary celebrating English settlement/invasion of this country.
I led a church service on Sunday in which I made the point that the original hope for Australia was that it become the Great South Land Of The Holy Spirit – not because of the natural beauty of the land – or its place in the world, but in the people God put here. Unlike a lot of other countries, no-one wanted to be here at the start of English settlement – it was a prison colony. But Australia is now undoubtedly the lucky country – it’s turned its founding fortunes around to become one of the most envied economies and societies in the world. Why would you live anywhere else?
And on the Fireworks, it sounds like there was a little unrest and unruly behaviour at the event this year. Made me feel glad that we’d gone to the office and had a sheet of glass between us and the hoi polloi. I wouldn’t say the event was the most interesting one I’d been to, but maybe I’d been spoiled. It is free, after all, so I can’t complain too loudly.
That would be downright un-Australian.

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