I’ve been a bit slack with this blog recently – mainly a matter of life getting in the way of everything else, but I’ve been thinking quite a bit, which is what I do.

There’s a lot going on in the world. We’ve had floods here in Australia, and there’s been the devastation of the Nepal earthquakes, we’ve more young people seduced into the world of extremist terrorism, and the news is full of sadness, disaster and destruction. Part of it is the instantaneous nature of the internet. Nowadays we hear about things immediately, via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where once we had to await reporting by a news service.

I’m often struck by the impact that choice makes on our lives. Years ago my husband and I did a parenting course. One of the early tenets of that course was about choices, and that a large part of parenting was about bringing your kids up so that eventually they’re able to make their own choices about life – and do it well. It’s probably one of the biggest worries for any parent. While your kids are at home, you have a huge say in many of their choices. Obviously, as they grow older, you give them more and more freedom, until eventually, by the time they leave home for university or work, they’re making all of their own choices.

I’m sure that most of us have at least the odd sleepless night praying and hoping that our kids are making wise choices. There’s a lot of stuff to make choices about. Some things are relatively simple – clothes, food, which bus to catch – but others are much more complicated. We’re all confronted with moral and ethical choices about what we should do in certain situations.

One of the things I’ve learnt over the years is that a choice is never made in isolation. Our lives can be very self focused. We often think about what a choice will mean for ourselves individually, but not necessarily for those around us. This is one of the hardest things to do, I suspect. Human beings are, by nature, self centred. Sometimes maturity brings with it a more all encompassing point of view. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I think we often forget that our choices can have far reaching ramifications. I think we’re often so caught up in ourselves, that we don’t think about the wider community, or we choose to ignore it.

This week there’s been a large focus on domestic violence here in Australia – and rightly so. In NSW (my home state) there are four hundred instances of domestic violence each day. This year, we’ve already seen 34 Australian women killed as a result of domestic violence this year. Although there are men who are victims of domestic violence, the vast majority of victims are women. What drives this?

Human beings can make choices. We can choose to drink, choose to remain ignorant, and choose to behave in certain ways. Some time ago I wrote a blog piece on the sexual harassment of young women in public places, and the sense of entitlement that some young men appear to have in regard to a young woman’s body. Somewhere along the way, these young men have chosen to believe that they have a right to do as they wish, no matter whether the young woman wants them to.

I wonder if this then translates into their intimate relationships? What happens when their partner disagrees with them? What happens is she says she’s tired and doesn’t want to have sex tonight? Does that sense of entitlement, amply demonstrated at a pub or club, spill over into the intimate relationship? Domestic violence is on the rise, and something is fuelling it. We’re theoretically in an enlightened age of gender equality, yet more and more we see signs that perhaps not all is as it should be.

Intimate partner violence is a choice. It has enormous ramifications upon not only the victimised spouse, but the entire family, and it then spills over into the community. We see damaged kids, who are then often educationally disadvantaged, socially disadvantaged and economically disadvantaged. More often than not, the cycle repeats itself in a devastating self defeating circle of despair.

I’m fortunate enough to have married a man who is everything I could ever want in a partner, and my parents celebrated fifty years of very happy marriage last year. I have no intimate experience of domestic violence, and I’m thankful for that, but my heart aches for those trapped in damaging relationships, and for those whose choices have led them down the path of violence.

What’s the answer? I don’t know precisely – I wish I did. I do know that it’s enormously important to encourage people to think – to think about their choices, and both the short and long term effects of them. The thing that I come back to time and time again, is that it’s always a choice. Bad choices are usually made out of selfishness and self focus. They’re usually about instant gratification and instantaneous short term reward. Good choices are often harder, because they involve self sacrifice, patience, and forethought. When our selfish desires are placed in the context of long term outcomes, sometimes it puts things in perspective. When children are taught to think ahead, to reason, and to look at right and wrong, and how they’d like to be treated themselves, sometimes they make better choices.

We can only hope.

ANZAC – 100 years on.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli in World War I. ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand every year on the 25th of April. (ANZAC stands for Australian and NewZealand Army Corps).

For those of us in Australia, it marks the date that we feel defined us as a nation. I recently read an article on ANZAC Day, that reminded me that we’d actually become our own independent nation in 1901. Although Australians served overseas in the Boer War, the general consensus was that it wasn’t until World War I that Australia ‘came of age’ as a nation.

Whatever the reasons, ANZAC Day remains our most important day of national remembrance.

Like many things Australian, it has its own quirks and traditions.

The Dawn Service is attended by thousands every year. Thousands of people who would never normally get up before dawn stand around cenotaphs all over the country, listening to the sounds of bugles, bagpipes and hymns, and remembering in silence those who served all over the world.

There’s a march, later in the morning. It’s full of soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel. There are veterans, school children and service organisations. There are bands. They play things like Waltzing Matilda as they swing along, keeping the time for those marching. Our march today was led by The Light Horsemen, leading the horse of the deceased soldier, boots reversed in the stirrups. IMG_4382

There’s a service next, with a catafalque party, hymns, the national anthem, and the ode. There are poems, an address, and The Last Post is played, followed by a minute of silence, and then the Rouse or Reveille.

People may then go on to ANZAC Day lunches, Anzac biscuits, or other family things. There are always war movies on the television, and heavy news coverage of the various ceremonies around Australia.

Today’s ceremonies were very similar to every other year, but in one way they differed. The turn out of people all over Australia was astounding. Our small rural town saw at least 1000 at the Dawn Service, and probably several thousand at the march and the service following it. Normally the numbers would be good, but significantly less. When you consider that our town’s population (including surrounds) is probably less than 16,000, that’s pretty impressive.

There was so much interest in the commemorations at Gallipoli itself, that there was a national ballot to determine who could go. Many Australians take the pilgrimage to Gallipoli, and more recently, Fromelles in France. Young Australians are taking the task of remembrance seriously.

Despite fighting against each other at Gallipoli, and in the Cannakale battles, Australia and Turkey have forged strong ties. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk sent a letter to the mothers of Australian and New Zealand Soldier. It read: Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”[1]

Today, on this 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, we will remember them. Lest We Forget.

IMG_4361 2015-04-25 09.39.29 IMG_4382 IMG_4383 IMG_4387 IMG_4394

Swancon and the #c1blitz!

I’ve had a flat out week. It’s been a real doozy.

I went over to Swancon last week, and participated as a panellist and the paperback version of Frontier Resistance was officially released as well, and then this weekend has been the critique and winner reveals of Freshly Squeezed Reads #c1blitz.

Swancon was great. I participated in four panels – YA Dystopias from Christopher to Collins, Fan Fiction Tropes, Science in Speculative Fiction and Asimov to Zelazny – science fiction from the Golden age of Sci-fi.

It was Swancon’s fortieth birthday, and there were three special guests – John Scalzi, Kylie Chan, and Anthony Peacey, who had the very first Swancon in his living room forty years ago. It was lovely to see how much the fandom appreciated his part in initiating the Western Australian Sci-fi convention.

I attended multiple panels, met some fabulous people, and discovered that I can still find my way around Perth despite not living there for almost thirty years (that sounds dreadfully long!) The discussions were thought provoking, funny, entertaining, exciting and fascinating. There are so many eloquent and clever people in the Australian Speculative Fiction community, and it was lovely to see how nice, supportive and inclusive they are of each other. It was made even more evident when the furore over the Hugo nominations broke out all over the internet.

This might seem a little weird, but as an Australian looking in from the outside (and yes, I do know that if I purchase a supporting membership to Worldcon I can have my say) the whole thing seems almost impossible to imagine. I’m not going to weigh in on the argument (and no, I’m not swayed by who the con guests were), but being classed as a social justice warrior isn’t a bad thing here. Enough of that. It’s all over the internet, and you can read about it elsewhere.

On to the #c1blitz. If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you’ll know that I participated in Freshly Squeezed Reads first chapter competition as an industry pro. Freshly Squeezed Reads have now run two wonderful competitions for writers of YA literature.

This time around, each industry pro read and critiqued ten first chapters of manuscripts. Each entrant critiqued at least five. There were also teen critiques from a number of schools, who were fantastic. If you’re a writer of YA stuff, you really should pop on over, read some of the amazing writing, and most of all, check out the wonderful critiques. If you’re writing for teens, you should probably listen to what they have to say. There’s a link over there to two solid hours of teen comments which was a discussion aired during the Digital Writers Festival recently. Teens are forthright, and there’s no beating around the bush. I really enjoyed it.

That’s enough for now, though, so time to go and do some writing on my current works in progress. Happy reading (and writing) everyone.

Official Release of Frontier Resistance Paperback – Swancon 40

On Thursday I’m hopping on an aeroplane and heading off to Perth. I’m lucky enough to be going to Swancon – Perth’s Science Fiction convention. It’s the fortieth anniversary of Swancon, and this year it’s the Natcon – or National Convention.

At Swancon, on Saturday afternoon at 3pm, Frontier Resistance will be launched in paperback format by Hague Publishing. Resistance was launched in eBook format last year in October, and the first book in the Frontier series, Frontier Incursion, became a paperback last March. I believe there will be yummy bickies at the launch :)

I’ll also be participating in several panels throughout the convention. Here’s my program:

Friday: 10:00 – 11:00 Christopher vs Collins: Dystopias Past and Present – with Sue Ackerman, Tsana Dolichva and Cat Sparks

Saturday: 15:00 – 15:30 Launch of Frontier Resistance – with Andrew Harvey (Hague Publishing)

Saturday: 16:00 – 17:00 From Asimov to Zelazney: Upholding the Classics – with Sally Beasley, Stephen Dedman, Gina Goddard, Anna Hepworth

Sunday: 14:00 – 15:00 (Overused) Fan-Fiction Tropes – with Belinda Forbes, Desiree Heald, Candice Schilder

Sunday: 15:00 – 16:00 Spec Fic Writing – Science Portrayal in Fiction – with Prk, Amanda Bridgeman, Tsana Dolichva, Donna Maree Hanson, John Scalzi, Helen Stubbs

It’s an exciting list of things to chat about, and I’ll be some of the panels contain people whose writing skills and body of work are super-impressive. Apart from that, I’m looking forward to attending lots of panels, chatting to people, and hopefully I’ll catch up with some of the people I met at Continuum X last year.

If you’re there, please come on over and have a chatT

Fine Lines, Freedom and Responsibility

I’ve been attending sessions at the Newcastle Writers Festival all weekend. I purchased tickets to a number of sessions, and had a great time. Garth Nix reaffirmed for me that you don’t necessarily have to outline your stories to write a good one. I generally know where I’m starting, know where I’m finishing, and a few things that need to happen along the way. Then I start writing – with all of that sitting in my head.

I heard some great short stories from the inaugural Novascapes anthology – a Hunter Region speculative fiction anthology. I read a small excerpt from one of my works in progress, at the WIP session, and had a great time listening to stories from  ABC Open.

I also attended a couple of extremely thought provoking sessions – one of Australia’s attitude towards asylum seekers, and finished off the festival with a panel discussion about the fine lines between hate speech and free speech.

That got me thinking again. I spend a fair amount of time on the internet. I tweet intermittently, Facebook, read, comment and campaign – usually about feminist or health issues. I like to think that I have a social conscience and opinions that are valid.

I was thinking about a number of things, but particularly about accountability. When people are online, rather than face to face, it can be almost as if they change their personas, and spew forth things they’d otherwise not say. I often see thoughtless posts or comments, dashed off without consideration for the feelings of others. I see ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’ retweets and re-blogs, often only partially read, and sometimes even completely misunderstood.

Of course there are wonderful things shared, appreciated and commented upon, and there are cats – many cats. None of these things are bad.

What concerns me most, is that the fine line is often crossed. By the fine line, I mean the tiny gap between valid opinion and outright bigotry. Sometimes racism is hidden behind a thin veneer of ‘concern,’ or fear mongering is used to promote financial gain.

In my own time campaigning on the internet, I’ve had my Facebook photograph stolen and attached to a page that a troll used to abuse others, including my real profile. I’ve been abused and misrepresented. That was all pretty minor compared to some of the abuse others have suffered. That kind of stuff really makes me wonder – what is it that these people are looking for? Why do they troll in such an abusive fashion?

Here in Australia, we have many rights. We can express ourselves freely, and we can believe as we wish, follow our own faith, and access information on just about anything.

But that freedom can be abused. It can be used to denigrate, demean and misinform. Often those in power – and by ‘in power’ I mean those with an audience – seem to become intoxicated by their own selves, to the extent that they believe in the validity of their own opinions, whether those opinions are founded in good information or not. Some even go past opinion, and into the realm of almost cult like behaviour, dishing out posts, blog articles and tweets to their adoring followers, who then repost, retweet and reblog, never giving much thought to the content.

With an increased profile, comes increased responsibility, in my opinion. An increased responsibility to ensure that what you say is true, helpful, and ethical. Does it mean that we should shy away from difficult topics? Or topics where disagreement abounds? Of course not, but those topics should be addressed with civility and respect. Where misinformation is touted as fact, it needs to be countered – using evidence. There’s a nice piece on The Conversation website, which talks about opinion and fact. It’s titled, ‘No, you’re not entitled to your opinion.’ It’s an excellent piece, and it should be more widely read in my opinion. (Which you are, of course, entitled to ignore!)

When I see people deliberately spread hate, or argue without reason, I wonder why. Is it bloody minded stubbornness? Or is it because they just can’t let go of something? Or is it because they’ve never looked beyond the one thought. When I see them argue furiously, but without reason, or an attempt to understand the other person’s position, ignoring all evidence that suggests their stance has issues, I wonder whether they’ve ever learnt to think.

I suppose that I’m arguing myself into a corner here a bit, but my comments really come down to one simple thing. We can choose to behave with respect and responsibility, or we can choose not to. We can play nice, or we can play selfishly, as if the internet sandpit belongs only to ourselves and our opinions. We can choose to hide behind facades, or we can be who we actually are. It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, but we can choose to conduct our discussions with integrity and thoughtfulness. Those discussions can be robust, but they don’t have to be abusive.

Time to hop off the soapbox.

I also

Terry Pratchett

If you’ve been living under a rock, you might have missed the announcement that one of the world’s most loved authors passed away last week. I was never going to do a post like this – probably like many others – but here I am, reflecting on the life and work of Terry Pratchett.

I began to read his stories when I was a university student in the mid eighties. Over the years I read more and more of them, and then I re-read them again and again. When I’m in need of a ‘comfort read’ it’s always a Pratchett book that I turn to.

His characters became old friends, and the Discworld a place to escape to for an hour or two’s vacation. As any reader of Pratchett knows, despite the humour in every book, there’s always a deeper message, along with some astute social commentary. Little pearls of wisdom were dispensed in every book, and each story made me look a little deeper at both myself and also the society in which I live.

Stories of tourists, wizardry, ‘headology’ and law vie with trolls, dwarves and goblins when you enter the Discworld. Themes from Shakespeare, Phantom of the Opera and the roots of multiple mythologies rub shoulders with crime fighting and racism and good old whodunnits.

I’ve met many favourite characters along the way. Vimes has always been one of my favourites. His stories often explored the darker side of the human character, and his internal wrestles highlighted the choices we all choose to make along the way. Granny Weatherwax’s character was similar in many ways, but she brought a different perspective to the way things were and can be perceived.

I know many people believe Going Postal and Making Money were the peak of Pratchett’s writing, but for me, the sheer scope of the moral and ethical issues that he covered in his Watch and Witch books are almost without compare. Even when Vimes or Granny Weatherwax made cameo appearances in other books, they were never less than memorable.

Much has been written about Death. In many ways he was anthropomorphised, but I always like to think of Death as anthropomorphising himself. I think that perhaps we saw more of Terry Pratchett the man, in his books about Death. There always appeared to be an element of self exploration when he wrote about Death, or even about Susan. I may be reading too much into this, however many of his later books featured Death, even if only momentarily or only in a thematic manner. We saw Tiffany Aching learning to shepherd people through the door, Vimes come close to death, and Cohen and his barbarians having one last fling.

Over the years, I’ve had the great pleasure of introducing my father, our kids, and various friends to the wonderful works of Terry Pratchett. I’ve enjoyed their giggles, snickers and comments as they’ve read his stories, and I’m sad that their creator has now left this earth.

I have no doubt though, that the works of Terry Pratchett will continue to be read with great joy for many, many years. He’s left a wonderful legacy of thoughtful, clever writing, despite living with what he referred to as the ’embuggerance’ over the last few years.

His Twitter account announced his departure in the most fitting way possible. Wander on over and read those words, shed a tear or two perhaps, and celebrate his life by reading his books.

New Magazine

I’ve just spent about two hours trying to embed a link so that a magazine will show up on my blog.

Have you ever had a moment when you do the thing last that you should have done first? After fiddling with the html, copying, pasting, downloading embedding tools, shaking my head, threatening to disown my computer and grumbling in frustration, I finally used the search tool with the right word.

Then I discovered that what I was trying to embed was not supported by wordpress…

So, click the link below, and it’ll take you to the Authors Cave Science Fiction eZine.

Gosh, that was easy….AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

Authors Cave eZine

Ups and Downs and All Kinds of Stuff

My blog feels a bit neglected at the moment, so my apologies for not updating for a couple of weeks. I usually post every Sunday night. Over the last few weeks our family has been rather busy. We’ve had the kids go back to Uni, my sister visit from the UK, Dad had an angiogram and Mum’s just had spinal surgery. The road between the Upper Hunter and Newcastle has been well used. We seem to have been driving here there and everywhere.

I’ve been flat out writing several things at once, and editing another, and trying very hard to make sure that I finally make up my mind about which one of the three things I really want to write that I’ll concentrate on.

I’m currently vacillating between ‘Disease in Space with Conspiracies,’ Slipping Bra Straps and Alien Invasions,’ and ‘Teen Girl Who Survives a Disaster When the Underworld Invades Australia.’ Every now and then I also contemplate ‘Talking Wombat on the Foot of the Bed.’ Can you tell that titles are a secondary consideration at this point? I have quite a lot of two of them written, and both the other two have first chapters because I wanted to play around with the characters and see whether I really like them.

The problem is, I really like them all. As normal, I’ve been running the early drafts of all of them past our daughter, and she tells me she’s leaning towards Disease in Space. I value her input as a reader, because that’s what she is – a voracious reader.

I’m also currently involved in the Freshly Squeezed Reads C1 Blitz, where writers submit the first chapter of their manuscript for critique. The earlybird first chapters went out to a panel of young adult readers recently and they critiqued them as part of the Digital Writers Festival. You can find their (very candid) thoughts here. It’s well worth spending the two hours listening to what they really thought about the strengths and weakness of the first chapters. They were articulate, thoughtful and generally blunt.

In other news, I received an email last week to say that one of my short stories has been accepted for an anthology. I’m really pleased about that. It’s a story that I’ve worked and reworked over a fair few years. Once all the bits and pieces are finalised, I’ll put up all the details.

Next week I plan to get back to less rambling and more focused writing – hopefully life will slow down a bit. It might.

Beginnings Are a Delicate Time (Or how to make sure your first chapter doesn’t crash and burn.)

There’s a quote from Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ that seems appropriate right now. “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”

If you’ve ever written a novel, you’ll know that the first chapter is something to agonise over – to get right. Some months ago, I wrote a post about getting the first page of the first chapter right – and if you’ve read it, you’ll know that I learnt about it the hard way.

In many ways, I’ve learnt about the whole of the first chapter the hard way as well, and I’m writing this in the hope that you won’t have to.

The first chapter is a huge part of your story. After the blurb/cover/title gets a prospective reader to take a look at your book, the first chapter is the make or break moment that keeps the reader from putting the story down and never experiencing the full greatness of your fabulous creation.

So, to the important points.

  1. A Killer First Line: It has to drag the reader into the whole first paragraph, and then onto the rest of the first chapter. Make it memorable. Make it not a cliche.
  2. Make it gripping: A Character Who Isn’t Going To Be a Minor Role: If you’re going to a lot of effort to drag the reader into the story, don’t make them love a character who isn’t going to hang around or be the focus of the story. If you do, you’ll probably find the reader discarding your book about the time they realise that the character they’ve come to love isn’t important.
  3. Much Showing: If you’re not sure what the difference is between showing and telling, stop right now and find out. Head off here and have a quick read. Make sure your reader is swept up in what your character is doing, and not reading a list of what they’ve had for dinner, or how many buttons their shirt has. (Unless of course they’re magic buttons, and the loss of one is about to end the universe.)
  4. Something Has to Happen: If you’re going to show something, it needs to be something important – something with direct bearing on the rest of the story, or at least demonstrates some of your character’s crucial conflicts.
  5. Pace It Well: To keep someone reading, they have to want to know what happens next. For some people, pacing seems almost instinctive, while others have to work at it. Your first chapter sets the tone for the rest of your story. If you start out glacially slow, your reader may not last until all the action starts. If you start with an enormous blast, and then stutter in the middle of the story, your reader might give up in despair, feeling cheated. They key to good pacing is to start out as you mean to continue, providing your reader with incentive to keep flipping the pages, desperate to find out what happens.
  6. Most of All, Know Where You’re Going At the End: Your first chapter needs to go somewhere and not fizzle out vaguely. It needs to lead into the next one.

Back to the quote “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” It is delicate sometimes, it is difficult and it’s often a balancing act, but more than anything, getting that first chapter right means the reader reads the rest of your story, gets to know your characters and is ensnared by the world you’ve created for them.

If you’d like to head on over to Freshly Squeezed Reads, you’ll find some other great posts on first chapters. While you’re there, check on the #C1Blitz competition.

Australia Day

Tomorrow is Australia Day. I always have mixed feelings about Australia Day. It commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet and the official beginning of the European Settlement in Australia. It’s our National holiday – the one when we celebrate being Australian, and all things Australian. It’s full of beach, prawns, lamb (courtesy of clever marketing by the lamb board), flags and barbecues, and lots of people having fun together.

It has other connotations however. Some of our Indigenous Australians refer to the holiday as ‘Invasion Day.’ If you’d like to read more about their reasons, this link will take you to an excellent article on the SBS site, which discusses the very real reasons that many indigenous Australians feel very differently about this day, and find it difficult to celebrate. I find myself agreeing with them, and wonder if a different day, celebrating a different beginning – Federation perhaps – might be a better option.

We are now a multicultural nation, made of people from all over our world, all living on the driest continent in the world, living under an elected government, and sharing a unique lifestyle in a wonderfully diverse country.

My mixed feelings are generated in some part by the concept of ‘Invasion Day,’ but having said that, I see nothing wrong about Australians celebrating Australia at all – as long as we do it together.

Some other bits of me struggle with the rise of overt patriotism. If you’re reading this blog from another country, you’re probably wondering what I mean. While Australians are very proud to be Australian, we have a long history of not expressing our pride by clutching our chests, waving flags or singing our National Anthem (or even knowing the words). My generation and my parent’s one have been notoriously restrained in expressing our nationalism overtly. Of course we do cheer our sporting heroes loudly, but that’s because it’s sport, and that’s a completely different kettle of fish.

We can be aggressively smug about our dangerous wildlife, our ability to cope with heat, and nearly everyone regularly observes Anzac Day with vigour and enthusiasm. We enjoy the myth of the ‘Bronzed Aussie’ and our outback heritage while living mainly in cities around the edge of our dry continent. We look upon those who don’t know all the words to ‘Khe Sanh’ and ‘You’re The Voice‘with some derision, and always sing the choruses loudly. But that’s OK, because that’s culture and not patriotism.

Patriotism happens when people place their hands over their hearts when they sing their national anthems and look upon their flags with tears in their eyes. We do sing our national anthem, but fortunately usually only the first verse, or on very special occasions we sing the third one as well. Fortunately we’ve completely ditched the second, fourth and fifth verses in the modern anthem – they’re highly embarrassing. If you really want to, you can check them out here.

I’ve watched with some embarrassment as overt patriotism has slowly grown, because although it’s OK to be passionate about sport and music, it’s weird to be passionate about being Australian, and as Australia Day approaches, nowadays some people put Australian flags up in their front yards, others attach them to their cars, and there’s an explosion of green and gold (our national colours) all over the place. That’s OK, though, I can cope with that.

In every shire there’ll be Australia Day ceremonies where a few people will become Australian citizens and awards for Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and other such nicenesses are presented. There will usually be a special guest who speaks and we sing the anthem. (First verse only.) That’s also OK.

But sadly, along with the flags and the clothing, there’s been an increase of what I’d call ‘Ugly Patriotism.’ It’s the kind of patriotism where flags are worn around backs as their wearers stagger around drunk and abusive, yelling “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oy, Oy, Oy…” or some other much nastier slogan. It echoes across our town in drunken shouts, and cars pumping bass, as they drive past flailing their flags while more drunks lean precariously out of the car windows screaming incoherently and aggressively. This is what I struggle with. The idea that being Australian is to be a drunk yobbo. The idea that to be an Australian is to celebrate an inability to speak coherently, and flourish an Australian flag in order to do so.

More and more, there’s a group of Australians who celebrate things we shouldn’t be proud of – alcohol abuse, racism, and ‘stopping the boats.’ That kind of thing makes me ashamed to be Australian, and not even slightly proud.

So tomorrow I’ll celebrate Australia Day with mixed feelings. I am proud to be Australian – proud of our resilience, our ability to stick together when things get tough, and proud of our generosity when the chips are down. I will remember our indigenous people, and think about those we have incarcerated on Manus Island, and contemplate the future, hoping that we’ll get beyond the Aussie yobbo image as something to be celebrated. (And as I press the button to publish this post, I am now resigned to be called out as Un-Australian.)


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