Australia Day for kids, is all about the BBQ, family and friends, right? It’s about a day off school, running around in the heat and getting to see the cousins for the first time since Christmas. But should Australia Day have a more significant purpose and meaning? As parents, do we have a responsibility to instil in our children the concepts of citizenship, history and diversity, as well as sense of place and pride?
Australia Day for kids can be an exercise in education and for parents, an opportunity to lay the foundations for inclusive and tolerant adults. But are we just encouraging xenophobia and jingoist ideals by holding a purely patriotic Australia Day celebration?
Celebrating Australia Day With Kids
Some might argue that simply enjoying Australia Day with family or friends is sufficiently symbolic of the Aussie way of life – we are most content amongst mates and loved ones, and feel comfortable socialising in our own backyard or in a local setting. Indeed, our children are lucky to grow up in such a safe and relaxed environment.
Others point to the negative aspects of Australia Day. Michael Mansell, lawyer and Indigenous rights activist, refused his 2014 Senior Australian of the Year nomination on the grounds that ‘it is one thing to acknowledge the fact of invasion; it is quite another to celebrate it’. As Australia Day becomes increasingly controversial (and frequently renamed Invasion Day by media and activists) do parents have a duty to explore the more complex issues around our national day? How many of these concepts have you introduced to your little one?
- Original ownership of land
- Historical and contemporary injustices
- Diversity and the history of immigration
- Racism in Australia
How Australian is Australia Day these days?
Another simmering issue is the commercialisation of Australia Day. Patriotic expression in Australia has generally been understated. However, the influx of cheap Aussie souvenirs from overseas, marketed heavily by the big chain stores has seen a rapid transformation of how we ‘dress’ Australia Day. It is now common practice to adorn our kids with Australia Day themed hats, t-shirts, tattoos and flags – which are very likely not made in Australia.
Discussing Australia Day with kids
One can’t expect to engage a toddler in these debates. However, as parents we can join the National Australia Day Council in their quest to make 26 January a day all Australians can accept and enjoy. In doing so, the Council’s message is to think about what is great about Australia and being Australian, and to re-commit to making Australia an even better place for the future.
Baby Hints and Tips have taken up the challenge and over the coming weeks we will share our unique perspective on what is great about Australia.
Read an Australia Day story from an Aboriginal Family here.
Share your feelings in the comments below. We hope to see stories that capture the spirit of Australia Day.