RDP: Nation


26 January is Australia Day which commemorates the landing of the First Fleet and the beginning of European settlement of Australia. It was not the first time that Europeans had visited the continent but these ships bought soldiers, settlers and convicts to form a permanent colony under the leadership of Governor Arthur Phillip.

In recent times Australia Day has become a contentious holiday. Naturally the indigenous community don’t particularly want to celebrate the day their country was taken over. Many call it “Invasion Day”. I understand that.

Citizenship ceremonies are usually held on Australia Day but some councils would prefer to hold them on a different day and there is a growing feeling that the holiday should be moved but nobody can decide when it ought to be or what it should celebrate.

The Australian Team
The Australian Team

Honestly, though I don’t think that many Australians spend a lot of time thinking about the past. Most people see this holiday that falls towards the end of the school holidays as the last chance to enjoy BBQ’s, the beach, watching cricket or just generally having a good time before the school year begins again. I think that people just want to celebrate life that day and I guess you could do that any day really. I’m not saying we should forget our history though. The way the native people were treated was bad but it happened. Most countries settled by Europeans have similar stories. But no matter how bad it is it doesn’t alter the fact that 26th January was the day that the first white settlers arrived. Like it or not it was the beginning of Australia as we are now. We don’t have to throw a party but we should remember it.

The early fireworks display on the Hobart Waterfront- Photo by Allyson Clark on an iPhone.
The early fireworks display on the Hobart Waterfront- Photo by Allyson Clark on an iPhone.

A long time ago, when we lived in South Australia there used to be a big event in Adelaide on Australia Day called Skyshow. It was fireworks synchronised to music broadcast from a local radio station. I know, it’s no big deal now but it was a novel idea back then. In the early years before it started to get too big and crowded we’d go to a park in the city with a rug and a radio and sit amongst thousands of other people all listening to the same station. I used to get a great feeling of community from that. I have to admit that it wasn’t nearly as much fun cleaning up the trains after the show once I started working for the railways but this was before that, the eighties.

I always rather liked the Australia Day weekend because our own personal Australia Day also falls that week. We arrived in Australia by sea from England in January 1966. I found out some years later that our official arrival date was 19 January when the ship reached Fremantle and mum’s passport was stamped by the immigration officials but we always counted it as the day we arrived in Adelaide. 24th January.

image Castel Felice
Castel Felice, the ship that brought my family to Australia.

I still remember the day. The ship docked in Melbourne in the morning and we had to catch a train to Adelaide. It was a slow train and it took us until late that night before we arrived. All day long we passed through the brown countryside. At lunchtime, the train stopped at a station where everyone got off and was served a meal in the refreshment room. Later in the day, we stopped at another place where we had tea and snacks. Now I think about it that train was probably chartered especially for the passengers as that was not standard practice for passenger trains even then. We first saw the lights of Adelaide from the train as we came down through the foothills. I remember thinking how pretty they were. I still love that view of the city. Finally, we arrived and there was our grandmother waiting to meet us although we still had a long drive in our uncle’s car before we finally arrived.


I was born in England in 1957 and lived there until our family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband, David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. In 2015 David became ill and passed away in October of that year. I currently co-write two blogs on WordPress.com with my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania. In November 2019 I began a new life in the house that Naomi and I intend to make our retirement home at Sisters Beach in Tasmania's northwest. Currently we have five pets between us. Naomi's two dogs Toby and Teddy and cats, Tigerwoods and Panther and my cat Polly. My dog Cindy passed away aged 16 in April 2022.


  1. You are right Vanda. A great many people don’t give Australia Day a second thought. I know when I was a young’un, i didn’t learn much history at all, except about James Cook and some explorers who made it over the Great Dividing Range, with a few bush rangers and a jolly jumbuck thrown in. We did learn some aboriginal history but the two histories were never joined up in any way. I suspect schools do a much better job of it now.

    I think because I have this strong connection to my own homeland that I feel it is necessary for the histories to be brought together so that we can all have a shared future.

    It must have been wonderful to see your grandmother after such a long journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have much the same objections to Columbus Day, which i don’t celebrate anyway … and Thanksgiving. You’re right. Most countries where white settlers came and took over from Natives. It was a European specialty.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a nice quiet view of Australia Day controversy. I find it harder and harder to have any national pride these days and so make a point of not acknowledging Australia Day as being anything at all. As you say, the long weekend falls at the end of the school holidays and so it just slips in there with the rest of the holidays (when you have school age kids). This summer though, on the south eastern coast of the mainland, it was hard to think of summer as enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

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