Through her Australia Day address, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain has tried to advance the conversation about our national day.
“With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country,” the Mayor told the 200 people gathered in Littleton Gardens this morning for the Shire’s official Australia Day ceremony.
An hour after the Bega ceremony concluded a Survival Day event was held in Bermagui, reflecting the undeniable loss many Aboriginal people feel on January 26.
The Bega Valley was split in two, and those overwhelmed by the debate went to the beach.
Communities divided or not engaged on our national day – surely this is not healthy?
Rather than waiting for Federal leadership on the issue, perhaps the people of South East NSW could lead the way and create an event that truly unifies and inspires all Australians.
It’s a conversation the Bega Valley’s Mayor seems keen to have and lead…
To address you on a day such as this is a tremendous honour and something I have spent a lot of time thinking about.
Australia Day is an event that generates conversation and thought, and rightly so. Thank you for being here to consider my thoughts.
There is a sigh of relief that comes with being Australian, our country is truly blessed in natures gifts and the beauty of our people and way of life is rich and rare.
The people we honour today with an Australia Day Award remind us that being Australian is active citizenship.
People like Dane, Junee, Ron, Shaun, Geoffrey and Marshall are people within our community that point the way. They inspire us and remind us of the power we each have within our hands and heart to shape this land that is girt by sea.
I am so glad you are here today to share in their wisdom and experience, and perhaps ask yourself – What can I do to Advance Australia? How can I respect and support the people, environment, and way of life we celebrate today?
Today we also stand up and cheer as new Australian’s join our ranks and deepen our proud multicultural heritage.
Twelve people will today become Australian citizens, people from across the seas to share our boundless plains. The stories of these people and the talent they bring make us stronger.
Central to our time together today is a history that spans one of the oldest living cultures on the planet as well as European settlement and exploration.
Australia Day is a history lesson that presents a range of ideas and experiences to consider; stories that take in the full scope of our country’s history and human emotion.
How these shared and at times conflicting histories sit side by side and are remembered is an ongoing dialogue for our community and important work for us to do so that in history’s page, every stage, does Advance Australia.
As different and conflicting as those histories are at times, there are often shared values and ambitions that rise to the surface as those histories are shared.
At our core, we are a nation of people who value being Australian and what that means to us and says to the world.
It’s freedom that comes as easy as the next breath, a celebration and acceptance of different cultures, an emphasis on friendship, a spirit that has a go, a sense of fun, and an empathy that steps up when we see a need.
A successful nation has been built on these lands over many thousands of years, each chapter adds something new, each chapter has its own challenges, and each chapter calls on us to help shape the next.
So in 2018 I encourage you to mark Australia Day however feels right to you, remembering all that we have to be grateful for, all that we have in common, and the future we all create together.
With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country.
Happy Australia Day!
Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain
The increasing hurt and frustration around Australia Day damages the potential and delays resolution, while ever it continues people will run from any organised event, the only people attending will be those at the extremes of the discussion, the rest will opt for a swim and a good book, and Australia Day will become just another public holiday when it could be so much more.
The leadership shown by Cr McBain this morning is perhaps the start of something better, let’s get the local discussion going now and not wait for next January to roll around.
Always interested in your thoughts.
*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council and acted as MC for Australia Day 2018 in Bega.