Margaret and I took an afternoon trip to Town Beach at Port this afternoon.
Obviously the beach and adjacent park are a traditional focus for Aussie Day celebrations here. We were somewhat bemused by the presence of a large number of inebriated young people and a good dozen police officers. Some people were playing cricket in the park, but it was clear that there was some edginess in the air. Several people were arrested by the police.
It is a really disappointing part of our celebrations that right across the nation police have to be prepared for what the media euphemistically call "alcohol-fuelled violence."
Why is this so much a part of our national celebrations?
When my family came to Australia in 1969 Australia Day was a public holiday without much significance. The day marked the end of school holidays, but that was about it.
Then some do-gooders decreed that we needed to make it a celebration of "community". Given that 90% of Australians live in cities and therefore have very little idea of what community really means, this was probably not a good idea. But local councils got very enthused and started putting on entertainment and other events to draw people together. So what are people going to do on a hot summer day when they are outside? Yes- consume too much alcohol. That's when underlying racism, resentment or just plain relational issues come to the boil.
All in all Australia Day is a great holiday, but some of our public manifestations are less than pleasant. The last few days or so some people have started to suggest that we move away from the public community picnic style of activity and more family-based celebrations.
I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that we need to learn how to celebrate our great nation without turning it into a huge drink-fest.