I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
It’s hard to define my relationship to Australia, even though I’ve lived here now for almost 10 intermittent years. I only realised how much I loved this country when I left it, for colder pastures and far away shores.
Away from Australia, seen through a lens of homesick longing, I missed the horizons the most. The pure, almost blinding quality of the light here. The sense of space and the great outdoors. My mates. Weekends whiled away on the beach. The sound of laughing kookaburras out the window.
I missed the clean air and the mild winters and that one brilliant, unforgettable Saturday that spilled into Sunday, spent at the spring races, then barbecueing at the beach in Manly and watching the sun come up across the water.
There is a lack of pretentiousness or the pressure to be hip or cool or “with it” that comes from being a Londoner or a New Yorker. Australia feels more tongue-in-cheek, more practical, more down and dirty. Sydneysiders may strive for coolness, but what Australia does best really is that casual beer garden, “anything goes, mate” attitude that is far more welcoming and egalitarian than the clubs and bars in other world capitals.
Sure, there are things I whinge about – the cost of living, the far-flung geographical location (makes it very hard to travel!), the eternal catchup Australia plays to arts and culture from the rest of the world – but as things go, on the balance of things – Australia has it pretty good.
To me, Australia is opportunity and equality – concepts unavailable in the country of my birth, due to the colour of my skin. Australia is my circle of friends, some of whom I’ve known now for over a decade. Australia is where I came back to, after time away in Europe and the Americas. Australia will be where I eventually end up in, I think, after these wandering feet see as much of the world as they can.
Beyond the Havaianas thongs and the most beautiful beaches in the world, beyond the codes of Australian mateship and the wonderful Aussie-isms of “she’ll be right” and “no worries”, past the Vegemite sandwiches and backyard cricket, all of which are great Australian icons – Australia is, above all, a sunburnt country in which I have the privilege of calling home.
Happy Australia Day, everyone.