I could not let Australia Day go by without a post. And, for me, it still sticks with my Friday ‘plan’ – because I write what I write because of who I am and where I live.
Firstly, let’s get the elephant out of the room. There is a lot of controversy at the moment about the date that Australia Day is celebrated. Some claim that it is hurtful to the original inhabitants of this wonderful land to hold it on the day that the British arrived and began to claim their lands and, it must be said, many atrocities were committed that should never have happened. But they did not happen on 26th January, 1788. They happened over several years, or many would say, over decades.
The Aboriginal people of Australia have a rich and long-lived culture. This culture needs to be celebrated and passed down so that it is never forgotten. I believe, however, that the Australia of today can celebrate all cultures of all people that are part of our great nation – and do it on 26th January. Historically, that is the date that it all started: we are what we are today because of the events of that day and we need to acknowledge that, including both the good and bad things that happened as a result.
I have tried to put myself in the position of the original inhabitants and it must have been an awful shock, to day the least. Can you imagine seeing a fleet of ships coming into your fishing grounds? I imagine the emotions of both shock and fear would have been prominent. They would have kept a careful watch on proceedings from safe vantage points, trying all the while to formulate the best plan of action. Then, not only do a group of them land but they raise a pole with something coloured on it. They would not even have known that it signified that the claiming of the land. I seriously can’t imagine what would have been going through their minds.
But, as an Australian of largely Irish descent, I love this picture. I do not, under any circumstances condone how the indigenous inhabitants of Australia were treated. But, this is the day that the country we are now was started – warts and all. We must also remember that many of our Irish and British ancestors had no choice whatsoever about coming here. They were taken from their country, families, friends and everything they knew, sent to the other side of the world as largely an unpaid workforce for the new British colony. I have at least five convict ancestors and, while I sympathise with what happened to them in their home country – I am so happy that they were transported here.
I see no reason why Australia Day, celebrated on 26th January, cannot be a tribute to Aboriginal peoples, both past and present, and acknowledge what occurred. After all, this was the day where their existence changed forever and what better day to reinforce the fact that the vast majority of Australians are mortified at the treatment of the Aboriginals at the time.
I also see no reason why we then cannot look to what happened from that day to where we are now and celebrate our diverse and beautiful country.
Okay – I’m done with that now. I really didn’t want to get political but I knew that an Australia Day post, where I will be talking about my writing influences, could not be done without acknowledging this ‘which date?’ issue.
As you know, I largely write historical fiction (although I have a paranormal novel in the wings at the moment as well). And, as a genealogist and historian, I feel my ancestry strongly. I make no apologies for that. So, most of my work and interest is in England, Ireland and Australia. And that is where, essentially, all of my work is based – and will be based. I have two stories that will be published in Heart of a Child (launched 24th March, 2018): one is set in 1300s London and the other in 1600s Ireland. One of my works will be set in at least two, if not three of those countries. And my paranormal novel will be set in Australia – although I haven’t decided where yet.
To write well, you have to believe in what you are writing. For me, that means knowledge and research. And researching ancestral locations is not a chore but a joy for me.
So happy Australia Day! I leave you with one of my favourites: Sounds of Then. I love this country!
Kerry A Waight - Author
A writer of historical fiction and paranormal stories.