Posts Tagged ‘Australia Day’

Despite living in Australia nearly two years now, this ANZAC Day – 25 April – was actually my first in the country (owing to our trip back home last April).

And I must say, it’s been a complete eye-opener.

I’ll explain exactly what ANZAC Day is all about, but firstly, I should confess that sadly I wasn’t able to participate in any of the activities due to a monster cold that hit me out of nowhere on ANZAC Day Eve. But, a day in bed feeling sorry for myself, did give me the opportunity to write this blog, so it’s not been a total failure.

Here goes….

1)   ANZAC Day is basically a ramped up version of the UK’s Remembrance Sunday

It’s celebrated each year on April 25 to remember the armed forces in World War One. The best overview of the main traditions of the day is here, on this government website.

But, what struck me most is the (rightful) prominence Australia gives to this day. Allowing people to have the day free from work to celebrate just that – freedom – and everything the armed forces did for today’s people.

It means that it’s hard for anyone to ignore the day and to understand its importance. However people choose to spend their time, the ANZAC celebrations will play a part. Pubs are decorated and themed with ANZAC remembrance and the TV stations, newspapers and radio shows will be filled with coverage of the remembrance events.

2)   ‘Two-up’ isn’t just an extra drink in the pub

When I first heard people at work saying they were going to spend ANZAC Day ‘two up in the pub’, I just assumed they meant they would be drinking lots of alcohol.

But after the third person had said this phrase to me, I decided to google it and found out that 2UP is actually a game of odds, where players bet on whether coins will land heads or tails. The link to ANZAC comes because the Army would play this game during the war. It’s actually now banned in many pubs because of the fear it encourages gambling.

And 2UP isn’t the only tradition of the day to help get Aussies into the spirit of the event. Delicious oatey Anzac biscuits have been a staple in the office this week too. Yum.

3)   It’s good to get up early.

I did set my alarm, I really did, but this cold just got the better of me. The Dawn Service of Remembrance took place at 4.15am(!) in central Sydney, attended by thousands of people from all across the region. Public transport opened early for events to help people easily get into town. And, if that was too difficult for people, hundreds of similar ceremonies are held in local suburbs too.

4)   It’s for all ages

I watched on TV the crowds gather in Sydney for the parade which began at around 9am this morning. Young and old together joining to cheer the servicemen travelling through the streets. Whilst the older ones were able to remember grandparents or great-grandparents they had once known to serve in the wars, the parade is a way to educate the young, in a fun way of what has passed into history. That seems the greatest outcome of ANZAC Day: that it will live on for generations to come.

5)   It’s a great day to be in Australia

I thought Australia Day was Australian patriotism to its best, but ANZAC Day has been something very special to have witnessed….even if it was just from my bed.

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I love Australia!

I love Australia!

For most of Australia, yesterday’s public holiday was just an extra day off work.

Enjoy the sun, have a few drinks and a bbq and spend time with family and friends.

Then the Prime Minister lost her shoe and not only this country, but the world was once again distracted by the uncomfortable history that surrounds 26 January in Australia.

Because ‘Australia Day’ will never be just another public holiday. Created as a way to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the first convict boats, it will forever be also known as ‘Invasion Day’.

There is nothing Australia can do to change its past. Of course it must recognise the struggle of the indigenous people of Australia and apologise to the descendants of the Aboriginal people who were treated without respect by those who arrived here. It can continue to acknowledge that Australia is Aboriginal first. Australia can continue to give Aboriginal people, as well as everyone who lives here, a voice in the future of the country.

Because Australia should belong to everyone now. We should celebrate what it means to be Australian no matter what background you are from or who was here first. Let’s enjoy Australia Day today and look forward to its future. Celebrate the fact that people from hundreds of different backgrounds now live here and call it their home. That I can be one of those millions who came to live here and feels a part of the nation.

Yes, there is still work to do to give indigenous people a proper and rightful place in this country. And as a Brit, my experience of finding my way was always going to be easy. But don’t let the world only hear about the protests, the disagreements and that lost shoe.

Let’s share the positives of Australia Day. The traditions of communities coming together all across Australia for events and good times.

As the official Australia Day slogan summed up so well this year ‘Celebrate what’s great.’

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As 2012 begins, so will my second full year in this country. I reckon this one will be even better than the first.

Arriving from England back in late 2010, I can look back now and admit how hard I found my first year in Sydney.

I never expected the culture shock I got when I moved to Sydney. This blog has been one way to cope with that. Writing about some of the peculiar things I’ve observed has helped to understand it in my own mind.

Surely Australia would just be England with sunshine I thought? No, not at all. From the serious matters, such as Australia’s uneasy history with the Aboriginal people of this country, through to the silly – like the sight of kangaroos hopping down the streets in Victoria. Every day has shown me something new.

It’s taken me over 12 months to adjust to having so much sunshine for a start. Being able to explore far flung beaches, go kayaking, walk along the coastline on weekends. Instead of arranging afternoons that actually avoid going outside in the rain like I was doing in the UK.

My diet has changed. I was used to casseroles and pastas. But here, year-round we eat barbecued meat or fresh fish from the market and salads almost every evening. I’ve never eaten so much Sushi or Thai food or Banana Bread either.

I’ve stopped complaining too much about the price of everything. Though I still feel like I’m being robbed every time a can of soup costs me $4, or a bottle of water on the street $3.

My dad told me last week my accent was changing. He hates it when I go up at the end of every sentence, Aussie-style. It’ll go I said, ‘No worries mate.’

I know not to get offended when I see ‘Coon’ written on a packet of cheese, or hear Wog used in the workplace. I know my Rangas from my Bogans. I still call my ‘thongs’ ‘flip-flops.’

I’ve met some great Australian friends now, not just ex-pats. People who’ve lived in Sydney their whole lives and with whom I can have a conversation without talking about what we miss from home.

Yes, I still shop for clothes online at Dorothy Perkins, but I also find a lot I like in Marcs, and Myer and Sportsgirl.

I’ve experimented with the sunrise exercise routine, getting up at 5.30am in the mornings, when the heat is just bearable in the summer. I’ve still felt inferior to the gorgeous Aussie girls who just seem so lean and glamourous and blonde.

I don’t really miss Eastenders or Strictly Come Dancing anymore. But I’d recognise Dani and Hayden from Australian Masterchef in the street.

I check smh.com.au in the mornings now, instead of bbc.co.uk. I subscribe to Mumbrella for my media news. We’ve got the Gruen Transfer boxset.

I can get stopped on the street and offer a tourist directions. I can tell you where to get the best cup of coffee on George Street and where serves the best Mojito (not too sweet, not too sour).

I keep my mosquito repellent at the side of my bed, and I make sure I’ve got my Factor 30 on for the morning walk to work.

I can tell you that it’s a nightmare trying to catch a bus home from Bondi on a busy Saturday…but the North end of the beach is your best bet.

I’ll know where’s best to stand for a good view at the Chinese New Year parade. I can tell you not to forget to arrange a meeting place for your friends at Future Music Festival. I can tell you what radio station to listen to on Australia Day.

I know my NRL from my AFL. My CBD and my QVB. My capsicum from my eggplant. I remember to ask for no beetroot on my burger. 

I know that I would have known none of the above without living in this country.

Am I changing? Am I losing the person I was when I arrived here?

I hope not. I think for the first time since I arrived here I’m finally feeling like I belong in this city. Not feeling like some outsider visiting for my holidays, not really ‘getting it’. But a true resident, like I’ve turned it from my house to my home, like I’ve been invited into the party.

Yes, it’s great to do new things and discover new adventures each and every day.

But I reckon there’s also a lot to be said for doing things the second time around too…..

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