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Australia Day cringe

By Audrey Apple - posted Friday, 25 January 2008

The best Australia Day celebration I ever experienced involved little more than a large patch of backyard grass, a blistering hot 40 degree day and a giant bag of dry white goon. Collapsed in our own lethargy and unable to move due to the oppressive heat, we steadily drank our way through glass after glass of cheap vino while listening to the slightly more underground musical countdown on local radio station 3D.

As the day meandered by, apparently finding the weather unbearable even for itself, people came and went until there were three: me, my Best Friend Forever and the Swedish Wife. Darkness settled upon us as we giggled like schoolgirls in the backyard, merry and wine flushed.

Later, the BFF and I rode our bikes home through the empty streets of Adelaide. Australia Day being what it is I assume most people were passed out in a drunken fever somewhere in the vicinity of their homes. The more sober among them had possibly hightailed it down to the beach, braving the potentially shark infested waters to skinny dip and exchange thrilling kisses in the shallows. Myself, I collapsed into bed and slipped between the sheets of the still night. The day had marked us well.


This celebration of ours isn't special. It doesn't stand out as being particularly different from anything most others engage in on the “special, special day” of the landing of the First Fleet in 1788. If people celebrate Australia Day, it's usually among friends and/or family. Alcohol is invariably involved, as are gentle pursuits like eating delicious food or embarking on some kind of expedition to a park or beach.

I'm led to believe cricket features highly during this period. Occasionally, people like to do silly things like run through the streets wearing the Australian flag over crisply sunburnt shoulders. I'm aware it varies from group to group, but there seems to be a vague general nod across the board to this strange idea of “what it means to be an Australian”.

If behaviour is anything to go by, being Australian almost overwhelmingly means getting as completely rat arsed as it's possible to get without actually falling over dead from alcohol poisoning. A drink for you, a drink for me and an extra big one for the country!

I'm not sure most people could even articulate why it's so important to drink to the country; what it is about THIS day in particular (other than it marking the landing of the First Fleet) that seems to be require more overblown attempts at quintessential “Aussieness” than others? (And on that note, can I just point out how irritating the expression “Aussie” is? Namely because it's almost always used in conjunction with words like “true blue”, “typical” and “spirit”, like somehow “real” Australians have gained access to a higher spiritual plane than their dowdy western counterparts.)

I'm not the first person to ask what characterises the “typical Australian”. It's been a puzzler for cultural boffins for some time now. To and fro they go on discussing the finer points of definition, always within grasp of a concept yet seemingly unwilling to come up with a definitive answer for fear they a) might have to relinquish the interminably pointless pursuit of trying to figure out who gets to be the poster boy (and it will be a boy - more on that later) for Australiana and b) will probably have to acknowledge that the character they've come up with is completely and utterly embarrassing.

Because, and correct me if I'm wrong, it seems to me that the closest anyone's ever come to defining this supposed “True Blue Aussie Spirit” is as some kind of parochial trickster who likes to think of himself as a doer rather than a thinker and has a striney accent so thick you need a machete to manoeuvre your way through it.


The quintessential Australian has a sense of mischief; he's laidback and enjoys a beer after a hard day's work. He's probably a farmer or a cricketer. He might be a miner. He is not a metrosexual. Or a vegetarian. If he is both of these, he's probably gay, in which case he is definitely NOT True Blue.

So here's where I come to the poster boy part. Much as the anti-feminists might like to spit and yell “misandrist!” at me, it is inescapably true that the discussion of what constitutes true Australianism is drawn almost entirely from masculine energy.

Perhaps the most convincing argument for this lies in this provincial obsession with the word “mateship”, the most ridiculous use of which was uttered following the Beaconsfield miners rescue. According to some reports, the act of the emergency services doing their job was a sparkling example of “true Aussie mateship”. Evidently, this sort of concern for the lives of others is unique to Australia. You know. Because we're all so down to earth and bloody true blue here.

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About the Author

Audrey Apple began life as a student newspaper editor before discovering the addiction of blogging. She has worked as an English teacher in Japan, an assistant to a prominent Senator and a slave to the most maniacal man in retail. She laments the lack of opportunities for young creative types in South Australia, but is so utterly hopeless at financial planning that she'll probably be stuck there forever. She recently discovered Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Persepolis 2 and claims they, like the discovery of feminism, changed her life. She is giddy as a schoolgirl over the election of our dishy new PM and finally excited about Australia.

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