We have a dark history. Each Australia Day, we celebrate the bounty of our lifestyle here in the Great Southland. But we also remember that our history is pocked with foul play. The treatment of indigenous Australians. Convict occupation. Conflict and poverty. These are the blots in our history, the pain through which a new society was born.
Back then, Australia was gnarled and ashen. But the Australia that has risen from that campfire is something golden. The lifestyle and culture we uphold today revolts against those beginnings to embrace its people.
Australia is people. Yes, we are a slab of land swimming between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. We are Great Barrier Reef and Uluru. We are “snag on the barbie” and “G’day mate!” We are kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and Tasmanian devils. We are gum trees and didgeridoos and billabongs and crocs.
But first and foremost, Australia is people.
And if there’s one thing we’ve learnt since the First Fleet, it’s that Australia’s value is in its people. Slowly, we have burned up corrupted thought that diminished the value of any human souls based on such things as skin colour and culture and gender. We have wrapped our arms around words like acceptance and inclusivity. And today, we welcome all walks of life into our community: all races, ethnicities, abilities, genders, ages, sexual persuasions and religions are welcome here. In theory. We all know there are lone cowboys who do reprehensible things and for a moment the nation is tarred with their brush. But for the most part, this is the Australia we know today.
Everyone is welcome. A fair go for all?
Apart from one group of people.
These people have been absolutely spurned. Most Australians don’t want to know about them. They shut their eyes, they turn the other way, they slap their hands on their ears and they turn their backs. It’s too uncomfortable. Too hard.
We’ve convinced ourselves they are potential people, not real people.
Have they done something wrong, these mystery people?
Their only offence is to have lived.
A very small number of them are rejected because of disability. But most are discarded because their existence is inconvenient. They have made their presence felt when their nearest relatives are busy with other things. Like travelling or climbing the career ladder or studying or building a nest egg. And every single day in Australia, 191 of these people are killed. Nearly eight people every hour are denied their right to live. So while we rally for acceptance of ALL people, because it’s downright un-Australian to do anything different, people are dying. Australians are dying in completely un-Australian ways.
Australia is a great nation, full of beautiful people living out their purpose, grasping hold of golden opportunities to use their unique skills and abilities to bring greater value and vibrancy to the heartbeat of the collective community.
But Australia is only as good as its people.
All its people. As long as we continue to deny life to the smallest, most vulnerable of our community members, those dear ones within the womb, there is a stain on our red earth.
The Great Southland remains incomplete.
Without all her people, Australia is a great, barren womb of a land.