Australia Day

January 26 is Australia Day by virtue of being the date the First Fleet landed in 1788 and it's undergone a transformation in the last couple of decades. For a long time it was significant to me because it was the date of the Big Day Out concert in Sydney and I recall that when The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy played in 1993 they described it as Invasion Day and the label sorta stuck for a while.

Sometime in the late '90s I noticed this trend at the Big Day Out in Sydney for people to wear the Australian flag as a cape. If I were more patriotic I think I'd find this fashion to be disrespectful but, judging by the crass Australian-themed consumerism in my letterbox recently, there must be a number of people grateful this now exists as a product.

Frankly I'm amazed at the amount of stuff branded with the national flag and/or some underwhelming patriotic slogan. The irony is that most of it probably isn't manufactured in our country, so buying Australian must mean supporting some sweatshop somewhere else and contributes to our trade deficit or something.

I am grateful that the print advertisements for the public holiday that started under the Howard government have stopped though. They had these meaningless statements about the public holiday inferring a right to eat meat products prepared in a carcinogenic manner or a right to wear thongs. At many levels these seemed offensive since it was an example of Australians taxes being spent on trivial advertising and our country doesn't actually have a bill of rights.

Don't get me wrong, I love being Australian and living in this country but fervent nationalism should have no part in it.

I am grateful to have met Storry Walton, who shared with me a story of how his grandparents taught him to distinguish between love and pride for your country. They said you should love Australia like you would your child because it meant recognising your country can be wrong and require criticism, whereas pride was blind in allegiance.

Storry told me that as a child in Perth his Irish grandparents wouldn't stand for the national anthem. They said they'd seen enough death caused by national pride and felt strongly enough about this that they endured abuse for this belief.