Australia Day

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Jan 26th is Australia Day – the date each year when Australians around the world get to celebrate the official birthday of their nation.

It was on that day in 1788 that the First Fleet entered Sydney harbour and laid claim to the newly discovered land (by them, anyway) as a part of the expanding British Empire.

Now, 224 years later, it is a major date in the Australian calendar – a public holiday marked by citizenship ceremonies and celebrations across the nation.

(To be fair, not all Australians find Australia Day a cause for celebration, with Australia Day protests reaching their nadir last year in ugly scenes when the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition had to be rescued from aboriginal rights protestors by riot police.)

But for most, it is a chance to glory in all things Australian – to relax, to spend time with friends and family, to have a picnic, to go to the beach, to get out on the harbour.

There are a host of events to enjoy too, many of which I experience during my numerous Australia Days spent in Sydney.

Take the Ferrython for instance – a spectacular race between Sydney’s ferries on Sydney harbour – or the concert & fireworks at Darling Harbour. There is no shortage of activities.

It is also the day when the Australian of the Year is announced – a ceremonial title that sees ex magazine editor Ita Buttrose replace actor Geoffrey Rush as the 2013 holder.

(Previous officeholders in recent years include an eclectic mix of scientists, doctors, cricketers and even a country singer.)

I too will be celebrating Australia Day again this year – not with the drunken hordes in Earls Court or at London’s infamous ‘Church’ – but this time with an Australian friend in the heart of the Sussex countryside.

The thongs and singlet will be replaced by the wellies and overcoats, the VB will be replaced by Harveys, the blazing sunshine will be replaced by leaden skies and the BBQ will probably still be buried in a snowdrift.

But nevertheless, it will still be a good opportunity to toast my former country from afar, to remember the good times I had there and all the good friends I made along the way.

And you can’t be more fair dinkum than that.

Happy birthday Australia!

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