Australians are made up from a diverse background of races and cultures that have come together to form a multicultural mishmash of people who have learned to get on with each other and enjoy life together. We don’t always get it right but we are a people who believe in giving everyone “a fair go!”.
Our heritage has created us to be a laid back fun loving people! We don’t take things too seriously except when injustice or peace is at stake. We fight for the down trodden or the “battler”. We are generous givers of our money, a helping hand and a good old slap on the back for encouragement. We are quick to make “mates”, quick to forgive and loyal to the very end. We know how to celebrate… and Australia Day is no exception… so, it’s off to the beach and relax.
While there is quite a history behind Australia Day (read Dr. Elizabeth Kwan’s essay), I reflected upon the following:
Our country was originally prepared and looked after by the guardians of the land, our Aboriginal people.
Then came a Dutch explorer, Willem Janez, who is reported to be the first European to have set foot on Australian soil in 1606 when he discovered Cape York Peninsula and charted 200 miles of the Australian coastline, without realising he had discovered a new continent.
Then came Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros in 1606 gave this continent its name “La Australia del Espiritu Santo” or literally “Great Southland of the Holy Spirit”. His actual proclamation was as follows:
“Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those here present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in the name of Jesus Christ, hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which Jesus Christ’s person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of the human race, on this day of Pentecost, 14 May 1606, I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole in the name of Jesus, which from now on shall be called the Southern land of the Holy Spirit and this always and forever to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy, sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly.”
Soon the English and Dutch took advantage of his discoveries and launched their own expeditions in their quest to find the “South Land of the Holy Spirit”. It was a Dutch Protestant, Abel Tasman, who was the first European to sight Tasmania in 1642 and on a second voyage in 1644, he charted the coast of Australia from Cape York Peninsula west to Willems River in the centre of the west coast.
Then in 1770, Captain James Cook discovered the east coast of Australia, which he charted and claimed for Great Britain under the name of New South Wales. In August 1786, the British government decided to start a convict settlement in New South Wales. And from here England came and established a Christian foundation and an avenue for development and growth as a country.
The actual date of Australia day was based on the year 1788 on the 26th of January when Captain Arthur Phillip formally declared possession of the Colony of NSW and was placed as the first Governor General.
I believe, simplistically I know, that this nation was kept preserved by God through our Aboriginals. It was named, claimed and set apart for His Glory and that He sent Christians here to establish a Christian foundation, to forge a nation of people who would accept and embrace all peoples… a nation where everyone can have “a fair go!” A place that anyone would be proud to call, home.
For me, in 1991, Geoff Bullock captured the essence for Australia in this song, The Great Southland of the Holy Spirit:
This is our future, this is our hope.
A land of reaping, a land of harvest
This is our land, this is our home.
This is the Great South-land
Of the Holy Spirit
A land of red dust plains
And summer rains
To this sunburnt land
We will see a flood
And to this Great South-land
His Spirit comes.
This is our nation, this is our land
This land of plenty, this land of hope.
The richest harvest is in her peoples
We see revival, the Spirit comes.
This is our nation, this is our land,
This “lucky country” of dreams gone dry.
And to this people we see a harvest
And to this land, revival comes.