Australia Day – Worthy of Celebration

Australia Day, formerly known as ANA day was a deliberately organised effort by the Australian Natives’ Association to bring about a reoccurring celebration of the rich heritage and progress of our nationality.

A Contributor to the West Australian Gnowangerup Times in 1913 had put it best:

The members of the Australian Natives’ Association have very appropriately adopted Australia’s Foundation Day as their annual festival, and last Monday’s celebrations in this district, and throughout the Commonwealth, seem to have been worthy both of the day and the Association. The spirit of Australian patriotism was everywhere in evidence, and in fitting combination with that spirit there was practical humanitarianism in the very general devotion of proceeds to public hospitals and other philanthropic objects.

The Association has effectually answered, by living down, many fears and objections that were aroused at its inception. Perhaps the most serious of these objections was that the special claim to patriotism by a section of the population suggested an inferior degree of patriotism in other sections of the community, and in suggesting might provoke such weaker patriotism. The answer was that no such superiority was thought of, but that the promoters of the association re cognised a real need to cultivate amongst young Australians a love for their own country and create in them an adequate idea of its potentialities.

There never has been on the part of the association even a negative reflection against those elements of the population for which Australia is so much indebted to the Mother land. The very fact that such people had so much cause for pride in the Mother-land would help in- stead of hindering a proper interest in their adopted country as a part of the great Empire. With young Australians the conditions were entirely different. Born in a new and practically undeveloped country, were all institutions are new, and all works at their crude beginnings, where the main occupation is that of forest destruction and, the life of the great majority of the people is hard and unattractive, what natural than that the young people should at the very beginnings of their study of history of older countries fail to do justice to their own land.

Surely then the answer was a fair one that it is a good thing to say to these young Australians : Note well that your heritage is potentially one of the finest on the face of the earth, and to you: is entrusted the honour and dignity of nation-building on this fine foundation.

Any claim that no blunders had ever been made by the directorate, or the branches, would be a claim to super-human wisdom But every fair critic will admit that the association has thoroughly justified itself, and accomplished a vast amount of good. To love Australia; to believe in its great possibilities, and contribute one’s share to the working out of those great possibilities — surely it must be a good thing to inculcate all this in the rising generation.

This is really what the Australian Natives’ Association was founded for, and is now maintained to do, and in such an Association every young Australian may profitably take a share.

ANA Day, Melbourne, 26th January 1898