Young and Free?

I went to a primary school named after a Scottish clan, MacGregor State Primary School, and this tradition was perpetuated by the theme of red tartan that ran through all our uniforms and official documentation. Our performing arts uniform came complete with long white socks pulled up to our knees, and garters that fluttered whenever there was a breeze or if you happened to walk a little too fast. Our principal was a kindly Greek man, who knew the name of every child at the school – but he could also bring the fear of God into your heart if he so desired.

At this primary school of Scottish origin, run by a Greek man, with a significant Asian population, we sang the Australian national anthem at every assembly.

It really wasn’t something we thought about too seriously, it was just something we did. And being quite young (comparatively), we didn’t really think too much about the words we were singing. We were, probably in the most literal sense, the most ‘young and free’ we could be at that point in time. I think if I’d stopped to really consider the words, armed with the hindsight of high school social studies, I would have stopped singing it altogether.

Don’t get me wrong – I am very grateful to have been brought up in Australia, and to reap the rewards of my parents’ hard work. But I am also acutely aware of Australia’s young and chequered past, and even more aware of the fact that there are some who seem quite content to ignore that part of history.

I’m so fed up with this absurd notion of patriotism that seems to have developed with a ridiculous amount of fervour in the past five or six years. I’m willing to bet most of the people who will be running around with the Australian flag emblazoned or wrapped around their body tomorrow haven’t really thought about what it means to be ‘Australian’, other than ‘drinking lots of alcohol and telling other people to get out of our country’.

I’m also at the point where I would almost prefer overt racism as opposed to casual or passive aggressive racism. At least it’s then easy to know who to avoid and never talk to again. The most common issue with those in the latter category is that they always seem to want to argue their point, they insist that they’re not actually being racist at all, or they tell me I’m mistaken because “I have Asian friends and they say it’s all right”, or “I have Asian friends and they haven’t encountered that sort of behaviour”. Everyone’s experience is different – and this can be because of a large number of reasons. Life exists outside the bubble you have created for yourself and your friends.

There are so many other things I could ramble on about, but I’m sure there are others who have put those points forward more eloquently and to a wider audience. I suppose I’m just glad that the issues associated with ‘Australia Day’ are gaining more traction as the years go by, and my fingers will remain crossed for some sort of rectification of all the problems we have caused.

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