How you spend Australia Day may depend on your heritage, culture, citizenship or if you’re the type of person that recognises and celebrates such days. Or it may just be a welcome long weekend.
Whatever is means for you, I sense that there may a shift this year in the aftermath of the catastrophic fires these last few months around Australia, loss of houses, communities, human life, native wildlife, habitat, bushland and livestock, that has affected us all. And the fire season has several months still to run. Our land that ‘‘abounds in nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare …’ seems to be struggling and it’s gifts are becoming rarer by the day.
Many people, me included, have expressed their dismay, devastation and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness in the face of such a national disaster and don’t know what to do for the best. It’s at times like these that we need to find optimism even when we have no direct control over events and so like thousands of other Nick and I have donated to various fundraisers trusting that those funds reach the services, places and people most in need.
Whatever your thoughts are about what has caused such widespread, damaging and formidable fires be it climate change, lack of timely and appropriate action, nature rebalancing, drought, excessive carbon emissions or all of these and more, we also need to take responsibility for our human contribution and daily choices.
While it may feel like one person, one family, one street or one community doing something differently will not make much difference compared to the scale of the problem, it’s also important not to underestimate the power of one person to influence and, through small actions, create a ripple effect of change.
In that regard, I like Margaret Mead’s (cultural anthropologist) quote “never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.
I think that what we have witnessed over these last months has given us an opportunity to consider what is important to us as Australians and how that may change our behaviour. So many people going above and beyond, looking out for others when they are struggling, working through exhaustion and putting their own lives at risk to save lives and property, leaving their families for days and weeks on end. To me all of these are examples of values-based behaviour and seem to link to those values displayed at the Isurava on the Kokoda Track; Endurance, Courage, Mateship and Sacrifice.
With values being an internal compass, set of moral guidelines and beacons that guide us and influence our behaviour, perhaps Australia Day is a good time to consider your own or your family’s set of values. What’s really important? What will help you make decisions when times are tough? What will guide your own behaviour? What will help you establish and preserve your boundaries?
That’s what can help us survive the tough times and .help build our sense of identity as individuals, family and as a nation.