I took this picture along the corner of Swanston and Bourke Street. I think of it as a reminder of the impact the recent bushfires had on Australia. The 26th of January is Australia Day, and a few thoughts came to my mind.
During the 1999 Australian constitutional referendum, prime minister John Howard proposed the constitutional preamble to state,
“Australians are free to be proud of their country and heritage, free to realise themselves as individuals, and free to pursue their hopes and ideals. We value excellence as well as fairness, independence as dearly as mateship.”
I think the recent national tragedy showed that “mate” isn’t just a term in the Australian lexicon but rather a way of life and a part of the Australian spirit.
For myself, As a migrant hailing from the beautiful land of Sri Lanka, it didn’t take long to fall in love with Australia. I left the country I grew up in at the young age of 17 years with the blessings of my loving parents. Like many students that come to Australia, I came with the hope to audaciously pursue a dream. Growing up with the unconditional love and support of my Ammi (Mother) and Thathi (Father) I had a very comfortable childhood. I was aware of the fact that compared to many Sri Lankans, I was very privileged; sometimes even pampered. As a result of this, when I left Sri Lanka, I was still a boy. But, it was Australia that made me a man and formulated my worldview as an adult. For this, I am in debt to this great nation for welcoming me with open arms and an embracing heart. I began to understand that Australia is a country for those who are willing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and take personal responsibility for their own life, while also respecting egalitarianism, liberty and individual freedom. Amazing… just amazing… it truly is a miracle to see the multiculturalism that exists within the umbrella of the greater Australian culture thrive and live up to those eternal principles that became the foundation of this nation.
Needless to say, we aren’t a perfect nation because there aren’t perfect humans, but I do wonder what is my duty as an individual to this society to maintain our values and our way of life and increase our well-being. It was John F. Kennedy who famously said,
“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”
I think this statement is not just exclusively for Americans but applicable to all sovereign individuals that live in free nations. While we all diligently pursue our personal goals and ambitions, a question I would ask myself is how can I contribute in some way to the public good of our society.
Happy Australia Day!