Happy Australia Day, everyone! This day means a lot to all Australians – it’s a holiday, after all.
I’m just on my way back from the Australia Day ‘do’ at The Lodge. Every year the PM invites a motley assortment of diplomats, civil servants, politicians, religious leaders and general ratbags for drinks and a gathering at her home in Canberra.
I went as the +1 of Ven Thich Quang Ba, a senior Vietnamese monk in Canberra, who’s has been to this event every year since the days if Bob Hawke.
It’s a chance to say g’day to the PM, and to meet some of the people involved in Australias’s public life, whether the Ambassador of East Timor, the head of the Trucker’s Association, or a local Greenpeace rep.
It was a sweltering day under the marquis, and most of the blokes were sweating in their suits, casting envious glances at my robes. I did get some criticism, though: the French Ambassador’s wife told me the color of my robe wasn’t bright enough and I was using the wrong wash powder. I’ll bear it in mind.
A shadow was cast, of course, by the ongoing trauma of the floods in Queensland and Victoria. Julia gave an upbeat message, all ‘We’re going to rebuild’. The luxurious surroundings reminded me of how many people still suffer, without even the basics.
It’s easy to be cynical about these events, but for me there is something magnificent about it all. It’s very low-key, with that slight Australian embarassment for formalities and nationalism; but the diversity of peoples from all different nations and backgrounds speaks volumes for Australia’s success as one of the world’s great multicultural nations. And that is something to be proud of.