What makes me Australian?
First, I was born here and that makes me indigenous to Australia, just like those loudly claiming that their genetic heritage, no matter how small, should bestow considerations and advantages not available to the rest of us. Spurn that urge to separatism; as citizens of Australia we are all of us equal.
Secondly, my forebears on both sides of the family came to the Great South Land from Scotland, Ireland and England seeking the freedom and opportunity to be their best. They were largely unaware of conditions in the land “down under,” or even if there were real opportunities to demonstrate their abilities with hammer, needle and plough. But come they did and soon found themselves working on farms, clearing bush, in sawmills turning trees into lumber and shearing sheep in sheds newly built from timber often felled on site. All that mattered was the ability to do a job and the implicit commitment that, when necessary, you were there and available to assist your fellow workers, mates and neighbours. Read Henry Lawson’s The Fire at Ross’s Farm to see how decency and mateship overcome rivalries of even the most bitter kind. This was the dawn of Aussie mateship, built on a fair go for all. Our forebears built a future and a nation of which we can and should be proud. We were mutually motivated to make Australia great and to benefit from that growth.
It was a time of achievement interrupted by two world wars that saw Diggers much honoured and commended. After defending our freedom in those two horrific wars, we opened our vast land to people fleeing countries shattered and divided by those conflicts. These New Australians were prepared to start again by working hard and building new lives side by side with Aussies whose ancestors had done likewise. These immigrants soon adopted the Australian way of life, embracing and expanding the culture that welcomed them. We claim we are “multicultural”, which is true enough after a fashion. But most of all we are Australians with every right to be proud of that.
So why do we presently confront the divisions exacerbated by the Voice — a supreme irony as the Yes camp would have you believe such tampering with the Constitution will actually be a force for amity and unity. Why do we have a tiny segment of our population totally reliant, generation by generation, on taxpayers for all of their needs even as they deliver lectures about how uncaring — indeed, callous in the most racist way — are their fellow citizens? What we don’t see is the embrace of the most basic responsibility to gain an education and become proudly self-reliant.
Thirdly, what makes me Australian is the fact that although I am now 80+ years of age, I am passionately proud of the land we have all had a hand in developing. Our continent is now more fertile, more productive and mostly better managed than at any time in thousands of years.
To those harping for more rights — read that as ‘race-based privileges’ — and ‘reparative’ handouts, let me say this: stop whinging and start pulling your weight. As part of Team Australia you will gain both the respect and support of other team members. You will be proud to say ‘I am Australian first and Aboriginal (or Italian, Chinese or whatever) second’, just as my forebears did and millions of other new settlers have done.
Believe me when I say the Voice is not the way to get there. Scrap the grievance mongering. Drop the trauma-of-colonisation nonsense. You have nothing to lose, apart from mendicancy, and so much to gain.
Ron Pike, a self-described “old bushy”, is a water consultant and third-generation irrigation farmer