Theme: Reflect, Respect, Celebrate
In 2020, the National Australia Day Council launched a new campaign that calls upon all Australians to reflect, respect and celebrate on Australia Day. According to the National Australia Day Council:
Australia Day is meant to be an experience for all Australians to celebrate what is best in our nation, to reflect on the values that have shaped our story and to rejoice in the richness and diversity which makes us the nation that we have become. Mary MacKillop recognised this Australian context in writing to Rome in 1873 about the kind of Religious Institute that was required for this nation. She writes: “It is an Australian who writes” one who understands the uniqueness of the vast and distant land and its people. She recognised that it needed to be one in which the rich tradition of its First Peoples and the diversity of cultures who found themselves living here needed to be honoured.
On this Australia Day, we come together to celebrate in ways big and small and like Mary MacKillop rejoice in our uniqueness. As we gather, we pause to remember what this day has come to mean for many of our First Nation Peoples – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lived here for over 60,000 years. They represent the oldest continuous living culture in the world. We can only imagine what it must have been like when they saw the first fleet arriving on this date 1788 for it was to commence a chain of events that have had disastrous consequences for many Indigenous people. On this Australia Day let us acknowledge with heavy hearts this reality and step forward with greater courage into the journey of reconciliation and into the implementation of the Uluru Statement.
As Australians we are called to reflect upon both the joys and sorrows that are part of our history, to take time to breathe in the beauty and the harshness of this land and to celebrate the courage and resilience, the hopes, dreams and diverse cultures of the people who have come to call Australia home. The now famous Seekers’ song ‘I am Australian’ perhaps best encapsulates the spirit of Australia that we want to celebrate on Australia Day.
It is a day to celebrate our ordinary everyday heroes whose lives give expression to the values that are at the heart of all that it means to be Australian – to be there for one’s neighbour in times of difficulty, to support the Aussie battler, to be the face of compassion and courage in times of adversity. We have seen this in the events that have shaped our Australian story during 2020 – devastating bushfires and endless years of drought and the impact of COVID-19. Together we have grown stronger while we have seen the suffering of our world, hospitals stretched to their limits through the coronavirus, refugees seeking shelter from harsh climatic conditions, people left homeless and unemployed, and the poorest nations struggling with the implications of what the COVID-19 has meant for our world.
This Australia Day challenges us to once again to own and claim our egalitarian spirit, where the diverse cultures and peoples who make up our nation are welcomed and made to feel at home. We acknowledge that we have not always remained faithful to this spirit of reverencing the dignity of all and of opening our hearts to refugees and people of different cultures. This Australia Day let us respect all those who call themselves Australians while working to care for planet Earth as we address the impact of climate change and environmental destruction in this land, we call Australia. Let us honour the sacredness of the land upon which we stand and acknowledge the traditional owners whose culture and customs have nurtured and continue to nurture this land.
Let us praise and honour our abundant and creative God who has loved this ancient land since the beginning of creation. This vast and rugged land reflects God’s beauty. May God the source of all life, bless all who call Australia home as together we work for justice and peace. Fill our hearts with compassion and courage to respond to all those who struggle in life. We pray that as the Cross shines in our southern skies, so may we become the Christ light for others.
Reflect, respect and celebrate Australia 2021.
Sr Monica Cavanagh