Just want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which I currently live and walk, here in Toowoomba Queensland, the lands of the Jagera, Giabal and Jarowair people and pay my deep felt respect to elders, past, present and emerging. The land on which I currently live has a bloody and contested history, I just want to acknowledge that history and honour the memory of great leaders like Multuggerah who lead the resistance to white invasion in the area that is now Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. Australia has many heroes, and we should acknowledge and honour them all and only then will Australia day, truly be for all Australians.
Australia did not begin in 1788 with the founding of a convict colony, it is so much older than that, it is a timeless land that is home to the oldest continuing culture on the planet. Our first Australians have cared for this land for 60000 years, probably longer. What an amazing fortitude Aboriginal Australia has demonstrated in its long history, there is much all Australians can learn from that history and culture if we listen with humility and open hearts and minds.
Thought I would celebrate the day in my own way and share a list of books that would make great, long weekend, Australia day reads. But beyond Australia day any of these books would make great reading for anyone travelling around this great nation or planning a trip to this amazing country. I have not reviewed all titles here on the blog so I will link to the Goodreads page for each title so anyone who wants more information can easily access it.
For a book about what it is like to travel around Australia, a nation characterised by diversity and multiplicity you can’t go past Monica Tan’s Stranger Country. As a Chinese Australian Tan’s exploration of identity, her own and our national identity is informative and eye opening. You can read my review here. If you are contemplating doing “the big lap”, the circuit around Australia, this book is a good place to start. A good read if you want to understand what makes up Australian national identity.
When it comes to important contributions to Australian knowledge and identity it is impossible to ignore Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu, a book that has fundamentally changed the narrative of Australian indigenous history, over turning the myth of a primitive, nomadic, society, that in turn fed the lie of “terra nullius”. An important book for several reasons, it offers a well researched and well argued corrective to the mythology of pre-colonial Australia as an unsophisticated hunter gather society, and is therefore a book every Australian should read. Secondly it offers interesting ideas and possibilities as we enter an age of mono-culture and food insecurity. A great book that every Australian should read, it is informative, accessible, well argued and brief, a great read. That it is attracting so much negative attention from right wing media is testimony to the importance and influence of the book.
When it comes to Australia’s identity and issues with race you must read Stan Grant’s powerful and personal reflection Talking to my Country, from my Goodreads notes: On the cover this book is described as: “The book that every Australian should read” and that is a more than fair description. It is a book, that in a very personal and accessible way makes so much, that sometimes we don’t know, and sometimes, I think we just don’t want to know, known. A very readable and important book. Like so many I was shocked and outraged by the treatment Adam Goodes received. I was stunned, that such blatant racism existed and could even for one millisecond be defended. It was what happened to Adam Goodes that inspired Stan Grant to write firstly his famous editorial and now this extended meditation on Australia and our history and Aboriginality. This is a moving and important book. ( For overseas readers Adam Goodes is an elite, Australian sportsman, a former Australian of the year, an AFL football player who was subjected to a sustained and hate filled racist campaign that started in 2013 and culminated in Goodes leaving the sport for good in 2015).
Grant continued that reflection in the follow up book Australia Day. Our day of national celebration is also a day of mourning for many first Australians and that tension that exists in Australian history and identity is further explored by Grant in Australia Day. As a prominent journalist and academic Grant occupies a unique and respected position, he is able to speak from so many complex elements of modern Australian identity. In this book he asks the questions: Who are we? What is our country? How do we move forward from here? I am currently reading Australia Day at the moment, it seems a very fitting read for this long weekend. It is also this weeks #BookSnapSunday book. There are so many other books I could add to a list of great Australian reads but I think I will leave it here for now.
No matter how you see the day I hope it is a happy, relaxing day and you get to enjoy some reflection on what it means to be Australian in today’s world.