A Reflection on Australia Day 2019

by Andy Hamilton SJ 

Australia Day is a good time to think of our beginning and current time as a nation. It all began with the relationship between the English colonists and the Indigenous people. It continues with the relationship between Australian citizens and people who come to Australia to seek protection. Both those relationships are ones of gift and of shame.

The Indigenous people and their descendants who were dispossessed, warred against and humiliated in the course of settlement remain a gift to all Australians. Their respect for the land, simplicity of life and hospitality inspire young Australians and challenge the unsustainable exploitation that has marked our history.

The leavening of our mainly British culture by Irish, Chinese, Afghan, Italian, Polish, Lebanese, Italian, Maltese, Islander, Turkish, Vietnamese, Indian, Iraqi, Syrian, Vietnamese, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu peoples has also been a great gift to us. They have often suffered discrimination, but their difference, endurance and gift for community have helped shape a richer and more tolerant society.

And so the people who come to Australia to seek protection have also blessed us, even by their present sufferings on Manus Island, Nauru and on Australian territory. The stories they have told us of the terrors they faced, their courage, care for their children and dignity remind us of the values that matter.  We are the richer for knowing them as our fellow human beings and Australians.  Like the stories told by Indigenous people of their often brutal treatment at the hands of settlers, their story of rejection and callous disregard shame us.

They are a gift to be treasured.

That treasuring on behalf of the best of Australia is what CAPSA is about.