Tasmania, Australia by Ken Cheung.

Celebrating Australia Day evokes many emotions as people come together to acknowledge our story as Australians. This year, the National Australia Day Council invites us to Reflect. Respect. Celebrate – We’re all part of the story. On their website for Australia Day 2024, they have a short video that captures this reality.

It is a day to reflect upon the complexity and ambiguity of Australian history. It is a date that triggers discussions and actions around the need to move the date and what it means for First Nations Australians who have called Australia home for over 65,000 years. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, this day holds the story of dispossession of their land or invasion day, while for others it is a day to acknowledge and respect their capacity for survival against the odds, their resilience, and the strength of their enduring culture. It is a day when we are invited to contemplate, listen, and grow in a deeper understanding of First Nations culture, spirituality, and the gifts they contribute. It is a day when we are called once again to work towards reconciliation. It is a day to read reflectively the desire expressed in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

It is a time to respect the stories, histories and contributions of all people who now call Australia home. Australia Day provides an opportunity to express gratitude for the richness and blessings that come from being a multicultural society.

It is a time to celebrate the diversity of this nation’s people, their cultures, traditions, and belief systems that give a uniqueness to our Australian identity. As the Seekers song, I Am Australian resounds around many Australian Day events, we will remember and give gratitude that ‘I am, you are, we are Australian’.

It is a day when we honour those women and men who through their services support the Aussie battler, awaken our minds to the situations where injustice exists, enrich the world through new discoveries and insights, or simply be a kind and good neighbour in the reality of their lives. Congratulations to all those who will be named in the Australian Day Honours List.

As I reflected on this Australia Day, the image of the Southern Cross emerged for me, for it holds a rich place in our ritual and symbolism. As a child, I had the joy of growing up on a farm where on a clear night, the stars filled the darkness. It was with great delight when we would look and see the Southern Cross beaming down at us.

Over the years, it has spoken to me of the power of the Cross becoming the tree of life and its significance in the life of Australians. At times of great hardship, new life emerges. In times when communities face floods, fires, drought, cyclones, tragedies, and struggles of all kinds, we see the spirit of being a good neighbour emerge, to provide a helping hand, a listening ear, and a word of encouragement.

This is the Australian spirit which we celebrate on Australia Day, a spirit which embraces both the wonder and heartache of living in this beautiful country.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader