I’m not particularly patriotic. In fact I look back on a time, a decade or so ago, when it was, I believe, un-Australian to be patriotic. I don’t mean to say that Australians aren’t a proud bunch. It’s just that I the latest craze of flag waving seems out of place in our national consciousness. I’ve always felt that Australians are only patriotic in the face of criticism. So put a group of Australians and Kiwis in a room together and Australian pride comes out in the form of bagging our neighbours across the Tasman. Then, put a group of Australians, Kiwis and English in a room together and the Aussies and New Zealanders are best mates all of a sudden… anything to gang up on a pom.
I’ve never been too fussed on Australia Day (our national public holiday), far preferring ANZAC day which honours Australians who served in various wars. I think because my grandfather spent 6 years of his life in the army during WWII, this day means something to me. It’s often very personal and simple. My mum and I both think that we should clean our shoes on ANZAC dad as grandpa, after those years in the military, had a thing about clean shoes.
Despite all that I’m going to write a post in honour of Australia Day. It seems each Australia Day we give out awards of great Australians. Much to my annoyance, these are often for sporting personalities. It frustrates me how much attention sport can pull in this country. Have you ever seen the evening’s television viewing cancelled so they can show a concert, an art show, a play? No! How often does the cricket, tennis and football (rugby) take over… frequently. So here’s my list of noteworthy Australians.
Sir William Deane
I have fond memories of Sir Willie. For my international readers, Sir William Deane was the 22nd Governor General of Australia. The Governor General is a figure-head position who represents the Queen. (Strange system that we have as we are not yet a republic). For the most part our Governors General are not particularly memorable – except for 2. The first, John Kerr, ruffled just a few feathers when he used his ‘figure-head’ powers to sack the Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, in 1975. The second is Sir William Deane. Now many people would probably only name Kerr as a Governor General people remember… were it not for that minor little dismissal, we may forget him entirely. Yet, I remember Sir William Deane. He was a gracious, eloquent man, who while not directly criticising the government during his term of office as Governor General, certainly nudged at them on the issue of Aboriginal rights. (After leaving office, he was a little more overt). I actually felt sad when Sir Willie’s tenure ended. To make matters worse, he was replaced by a man I think of as colourless; indeed a bore.
I know that the Murdoch name is often not synonymous with a feeling of happiness, unless you’re thinking about Dame Elisabeth, one of Australian’s most well known philanthropists; a woman I cannot imagine with anything but a smile and for some reason a flower. I know that she has a great fondness for her garden, which in the past she has kindly opened up to charities to use. Her enduring love for her late husband is also something striking, heartwarming and beautiful.
I felt that any list was incomplete without Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.
I have no doubt that this inclusion will surprise many who know I’m certainly not a fan of many Liberal politicians. (We shall not mention names.) I include Fraser as I find him quite remarkable, not so much for his term as Prime Minister but for some of his activities in retirement.
Bravo for his criticisms of the Howard’s government asylum seeker policies.
Hats off that he supported the push for the republic.
I find it ironic, that the Prime Minister he replaced (the aforementioned sacked Gough Whitlam), in retirement, he sometimes agrees with!
I think he is a remarkable man for he is a reminder to me that one shouldn’t always judge: some people really surprise you.
Ruth, I think was one classy, elegant woman: except when she was playing Maggie Bear of course. Mother and Son is one of those shows which I think leaves it’s mark on a nation. As someone whose grandmother experienced dementia (and ironically my father is named Arthur), Mother and Son hit a chord in our family. So much so that as my grandmother’s dementia progressed, mum could no longer stand to watch the show. A shame really as it is so rightly an Australian classic. Brilliant scripts and even better acting; it deserves all the kudos it gets.
I did have the pleasure of seeing Ruth Cracknell play Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest. A woman not blessed with beauty, she made a suitable gorgon. What she lacked in looks, Ruth Cracknell made up for in style.
Last on my list is Cathy Freeman
I know, I know. I said that sports people are often overrated. I’ll make an exception for Cathy.
I recall being home with my father in 2000 when Cathy Freeman won her olympic Gold medal in the Sydney games. Even I, one of the most disinterested sports people of all time, cheered when she crossed that line.
I recall the controversy she had sparked earlier in her career when she carried an Aboriginal flag and an Australian flag in her victory lap. Beautifully, she ignored those who said she shouldn’t and consistently carried both. Including that night. And so she should!
If you had to name 5 notable Australians, who would you include?