I had a really terrific Australia Day: the weather was great, I was invited to a couple of really terrific events, and I spent it with two really great, close friends. Unlike most public holidays, including Anzac Day, Christmas Day and New Years´ Eve/Day, there are fewer ¨expectations¨ with Australia Day.
Itś a day you can just do exactly what you want. If it means you want to spend it with friends having a BBQ at home, you can do that. It means if you want to go Darling Harbour to watch the fireworks, you can do that.
If it means you want to go to acknowledge the day as a day of invasion, occupation and imperialism, you can do that. No one judges you on Australia Day for how you choose to commemorate the day. You can do whatever you bloody well want.
For me, Australia Day started off meeting my friend Kate at about nine o´clock at Circular Quay. With a breakfast table strewn with coffee, pancakes, toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and some newspapers, we enjoyed the sunshine, had a good chat, and were just close enough to watch the end of the Wheelchair Marathon race.
From there we headed to Wharf 6, as I was lucky enough to be invited onto a three-hour cruise associated with the annual Sydney Festival Ferrython.
¨Do you remember the year one of the ferries sank?¨, I asked Kate as we walked on board at about ten oćlock. With virtually no expectation about what the next three hours had in store, Kate and I quickly found ourselves a space on a table in one of the end rooms on the middle deck. ¨Mind if we join you?¨, Kate said to a big boofy bloke with an English accent sitting alone at a table, before his Australian-born wife and cute children joined him.
As we sipped our first glass of champagne and orange juice, we realised how lucky we were. Within an hour or so, we were eating prawns, coleslaw and potato salad, and had moved on to beer.
Overall it was a great way to spend three hours. An ice-cream followed, and then a walk around the Museum of Contemporary of Art. In the afternoon I returned home with every intention of heading to the anti-homophobia vigil, calling for a greater police presence on Oxford Street. But I had an afternoon nap instead, and slept through the alarm I´d set for 3.30pm.
Instead, I woke at about 6pm. I better hurry, I thought to myself, as I´d been invited to the Darling Harbour Convention Centre from 7pm, to watch the fireworks in a little more luxury than at the same time last year. The food was great, the wine and champagne were great, and the company was excellent.
At one point, Damien observed, ¨this is probably the most multicultural Australia Day event I´ve seen¨. As I looked around the room, I noticed it was true, with a truly representative cross section of people from a range of different cultural groups.
Earlier in the day, I had noticed a couple of Aboriginal blokes wearing Australian flags on their backs. Looking down from the balcony of the Convention Centre I noticed a veiled Muslim woman wearing one on her back. It went beautifully with her veil, by the way.
It was then I reflected on how some aspects of Australia Day which have come to represent intolerance in recent years have been once again re-appropriated as symbols for all Australians.
And of course, one of the great highlights of the day, cruising around the harbour, was looking up to see the word sorry appear in the sky.
Happy Australia Day!