“Oh look, it’s the country’s first McMansion”, I whispered in my friends ear. We were standing outside Parramatta’s Old Government House listening to the tour guide tell us the “sandstone” and “marble” was actually painted concrete and wood.
It was a busy day in Parramatta Park, with lots of people wandering around looking for something to do, due to the public holiday. We did a tour of Old Government House, visited the Brislington Medical and Nursing Museum, and even the old Parramatta Cemetery, which a sign proclaims is Australia’s “oldest cemetery”. We ended up there, thanks to a recommendation from the tour guide, who mentioned Henry Dodd, a servant to Governor Phillip was buried there. As he was the person who pushed the establishment of farming land in the early days of European occupation, it was only fitting someone had put a cabbage (as well as flowers) on his grave. The volunteers at both Old Government House and the Nursing Museum were very passionate, and provided us with excellent tours.
The only downside, of course, with anything historical on Australia Day, is the bias towards a modern European-view of Australian history, with only scant references to the 60,000 years of Indigenous occupation of Australia. That said, the tour guide at Old Government House acknowledged and paid tribute to the traditional owners of the land around Parramatta, which is a good thing.
Though I’m a great fan of things like learning about Australian history, Australian Of The Year, and having a national day, I’m personally of the view we need to find a better date than the one which marked the arrival in Sydney of the First Fleet.January 1 makes sense to me, for example, as the day all of the colonies were united as a Federation. Or maybe that day will become more evident when we eventually become a republic. I also had an interesting conversation today with a cab driver who I learned was originally from India. When I wished him happy national day for India too, he told me doesn’t celebrate their day also as ,”the constitution is deeply flawed, and doesn’t recognise all Indians”, he told me. “Sounds familiar”, I told him.