I didn’t plan to leave Australia 14 years ago and never move back. But life swept me up. I met an Englishman in London and we bought a house, got married, had two kids and then a couple of years ago we moved to France. I haven’t had a lot to do with Australians since moving to Europe because most of my friends went home a long time ago. Notably my best friend, the Notorious MUM, who’s to blame for enticing me to Europe in the first place. But she did the sensible thing and went home with her babies!
That’s why I haven’t celebrated Australia Day for SIX years. It’s nothing to do with the right and wrongs of it all. The truth, is most years I’ve ignored the day because it’s felt irrelevant. I know that sounds bad but without the heat, the fireworks, the BBQs and my family and friends, I’ve struggled to get what I’m even supposed to be celebrating. I guess I’ve been away for so long, I’ve lost my roots.
But something happened the other week. I was sorting through a bag of Aussie souvenirs I’ve been collecting for International Day at my kid’s school. My son, who’s five, pulled out a Boomerang and asked, Mummy what’s this?
And it got me. Right there. I always INTENDED to teach my kids about Australia but I never got around to it. Just like I never finished their baby books or got our wedding album done.
They’ve been to Australia for plenty of holidays but that’s only scratching the surface and there’s more to the country than just beaches and farms. So I dug out a National Geographic book called Australia for Kids that I’d put away years ago. They were fascinated by everything and it felt really good!
Since then, I’ve been reading them books like Possum Magic and Koala Lou. I’m teaching them Waltzing Matilda (although they don’t really get why a man stuffs a live sheep in his bag, does anyone?). The next thing on my list is to sort out their Australian passports. We talk about Aboriginal people and the ships that came from England. And they are lapping it up.
But still, I asked them what clothes they want to wear to their International Day and they both said English clothes! I was a bit disappointed but I understood. They need to be rooted somewhere and have a sense of belonging – we all do, even me. And they are immensely proud that I’m working on the Australia stand. I think my son might actually burst when he sees me.
It’s really hard to connect yourself to a country when you don’t actually live there or associate with the people. So I’ve decided to teach my kids that being Australian isn’t just about beaches, farms and Ayres Rock or kangaroos and koalas (that’s always annoyed me). It’s a spirit and a set of values. This is what I’m teaching them. An Australian is:
We like to win (but accept we can’t always)
And we look out for each other
Through this school event, I’ve met some Aussie mums and I’m going to celebrate Australia Day this year. A group of us are going to a local Thai restaurant…because that’s the closest thing to Aussie we’re going to get in these parts. When you share a history and culture with someone, there are certain things you don’t have to explain. Even though I don’t know these mums very well, I know they’ve got my back. It’s just a thing. An Aussie thing. And it feels like home.
Read more from Alison over at www.fivelittlestars.com