If Australians are cross with Woolworths at the moment, it's not about Australia Day. We're cross about rising grocery prices and excessive profits. Not because it chose to stop selling plastic Australian-flag paraphernalia. Australians see through Peter Dutton's latest Trumpist tactics aimed at winning the next election. We're not defined by what happened 236 years ago in Sydney Cove.
Australians know patriotism goes beyond celebrating a single day. Truly loving Australia is about celebrating and safeguarding what's good about our country, and being honest about how we can improve it.
Back to the date though, for almost 90 per cent of the time since the First Fleet arrived in 1788, 26 January has not been a national public holiday! Indeed it wasn't until 1994 that Australia Day was consistently marked by public holidays across all states and territories. There were multiple different dates in multiple different jurisdictions before then.
But more importantly, being a patriotic Australian extends far beyond a single day. Firstly, it involves recognising our continent's long history predating European arrival. It means celebrating the resilience, wisdom, and contributions of First Nations. Loving Australia also means acknowledging the pain felt by First Nations on 26 January and listening to and engaging in conversations about changing the date.
Another thing that's unique about Australia is our status as an Asia-Pacific democracy and multicultural superpower. That's something for us to protect and be proud of. As are our unique animals, plants and landscapes with their important cultural and ecological significance.
True patriotism goes beyond superficial displays and ceremonies like flag waving, BBQs and beer. It involves safeguarding and strengthening our social cohesion and democracy. It involves listening to each other, and actively contributing to improvement of our nation and the world. Loving Australia requires acknowledging that we are not static, that we can do things differently and improve.
Australia Day should be a day that brings us together. 26 January doesn’t cut the mustard on that. Woolworths clearly tuned into this as a business when it decided to stop selling cheap and imported Australian-flag paraphernalia. Australian's simply weren't buying it.
Australia's story is still being written. It extends far beyond establishment of a British penal colony on 26 January 1788. Loving Australia means looking forward as well as backwards. It means advocating for unity rather than seeding division. It means listening to and acknowledging diverse narratives; celebrating First Nations and contemporary multicultural identities; and cherishing and protecting our unique landscapes and wildlife. And being a patriotic Aussie means supporting a ‘fair go’ through inclusion, cultural understanding, and reconciliation.