This year the Australia Day Council has used the tag line we’re all part of the story and that today is a day for all Australians.
It doesn’t matter where you were born, or your cultural background or heritage or what language you speak – you are all part of this country’s story which spans some 40,000 years. You are part of our proud multicultural story and we are all a part of what makes Australia great.
We have seen that ring true over the past few months as bushfires have devastated parts of our country.
We have seen people drop everything to go and help in some way – be it in the emergency services volunteers or members of community group driving to the staging areas and evacuation centres to cook meals and provide support to those who have been out on the front line, those who were forced to flee their homes and to those who have lost everything.
One of the most poignant images from the Victorian crisis for me, which I think tells the story of this multicultural nation and speaks to the ethos of this day was that of members of Sikh Volunteers Australia who drove from Melbourne in their van to cook meals for those who had been evacuated at Bairnsdale.
There was also a group of women from the Australian Islamic Centre who drove four hours, with five trucks filled with donated supplies and then continued on and cooked breakfast for firefighters.
Locally, we have had people willing to help – farmers donating hay and feed, children baking and selling their goods and donating the money raised and other stories.
This proves to me that no matter our age, the religion we follow or don’t follow or the colour of our skin – we all have that great Australian trait – offering a helping hand when people are doing it tough.
That’s what makes this country so great it’s an important part of the story of this nation – a story that began with our indigenous Australians thousands of years ago and has developed over the ensuring decades to become the society we have today.
But there is room for improvement. We can, and should, always strive to be better. We must truly respect and value the traditional owners of this land and their customs and practices.
This isn’t done through token gestures and acknowledgments, it’s done through real action on the issues that are important to those indigenous communities – the issues those communities tell us are important to them. We must listen to them and act in a collaborative and respectful way to address the issues and move forward together.
There is too much hate and intolerance today. Too much emphasis is being put on the colour of someone’s skin, the god they chose to worship, the clothing they wear or their sexuality. I was raised with the values of treating others as you want to be treated. These are basic principles that ring true today more than ever.
This ugly discourse must stop, we must get better at accepting people for who they are and see that beyond all of those things, we are all humans, we are all Australians and we have all part of this nations great and ever evolving story.