The day we’re all suppossed to feel a sense of unity and pride in being Australian.
A day that brings us together. A day to celebrate who we are as a nation.
I’ve given myself about two weeks to let my experience of this years Australia Day settle, to avoid a rant the same day in the heat of the moment. But this will still be a rant, even though it is somewhat moderated by distance and time.
What a day…
In the afternoon we went to a Sydney Summer Series event (an urban orienteering event) at Mort Bay Park, Birchgrove.
The intention was for my partner and I to each have a run around the course whilst the other had a turn looking after the kids, riding their bikes and playing at the playground. We were then going to have a picnic dinner as a family.
The park was packed.
What with the orienteering event, and those indulging in a picnic, some swimming or a game of cricket for Australia Day, there must have been over 200 people there, all enjoying themselves.
It only occurred to me later that that’s just it.
They were enjoying themselves.
Apart from the fact that they were sharing the one park and simultaneously enjoying a day off work there wasn’t a whole bunch of camaraderie happening.
Yeah it’s fine to keep to ourselves.
There doesn’t have to be some mass cricket game involving everyone in the park. We don’t have to all sing kum bah ya together.
But where I think it is a problem is when we ignore others.
When we can’t be bothered to lift a finger in someone’s aid, when we ignore others in need.
Around 5:30pm, when the park was at peak capacity, one of my sons had an accident on his bike. He cut his knee open and it was bleeding quite heavily.
Because the park was so crowded parking was at a premium, and our car was some 800m or a kilometre away from where we now were.
My partner was off running around the orienteering course. So it was just me, the kids and two bikes – oh yeah – and a park full of 200 people.
Injured son was screaming. A decent bandaid of course has the potential to magically fix most injuries. But my wallet was dry.
There was potentially a bandaid in the car. So I figured I had to make my way there.
How to get to the car with two kids, two bikes and only two hands?
Should I leave the bikes and carry the kids?
But then I’d only have to come back for the bikes and I couldn’t leave the kids at the car on their own.
Injured son’s screaming intensifies.
He is lying on the ground, crying ‘hurry mummy, I don’t want to die’ and elaborating further on his fears ‘all my blood is going to come out of me and I’ll be like Flat Stanley’… ‘hhhhuuuuuuuuuuurrrryyyyyyy mummmmmyyyyyyyyy!’.
Mummy picks up screaming, bleeding first son, puts second son on bike with push handle and picks up bleeding son’s bike with the other arm.
Carrying 22kg son in one arm, 10kg bike on other arm, (super) mummy begins the journey across the park, trying to encourage son two to ride.
Second son decides he can’t ride anymore and mummy has to push him.
Mummy makes painfully slow progress across the park, putting the bike she is carrying down on the ground, using her free arm to shove second son along on his bike so he moves a few metres forward, picking up the bike again and moving forward to meet second sons bike two metres down the way.
Put down the bike again and push second son forward. His bike stops rolling another two metres along. Pick up the bike again (still carrying screaming, bleeding first son) and walk another two metres along to meet second son and do it all again.
All the while bleeding first son screaming at top of his lungs for all to hear ‘hhhurrrrrrrryyyyy mummmmmyyyyyyyyyy I don’t want to diiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee’.
First son is genuinely convinced his life is about to come to an end if we do not get to the car in time. He is distraught and no amount of logic can convince him that he is not bleeding to death.
In another situation it would be mildly amusing to look back upon.
That Flat Stanley remark ought to bring back smiling memories of my naive, beautiful 6 year old.
But the physical effort of walking those 800 m carrying kids and bikes through cricket games and picnics, moving so painfully slowly to achieve it was HUGE ( no need to mention that it was also close to 40 degrees).
Who needs a gym hey when you can carry your body weight in kids and bikes?
But the real point to this rant and one that I cannot find it in me to fathom, is that of those 200 people in the park that day, not one person offered to help me.
Not a single soul came to my aid.
No, I wasn’t asking for a qualified first aider to magically appear complete with bandaids to plaster up my son’s knee.
I didn’t need someone to come and wave a magic wand and calm him down.
All someone would have had to do to assist was wheel the bloody bike!
It was obvious to blind Freddy that I was struggling with more than I could carry.
Perhaps I needed to be pregnant as well?
I love Australians!
Ready and willing to come to someone’s aid at the drop of a hat.
And speaking of hats. I don’t ever want to see a bloody Fedora or Trilby hat as long as I live (a hard task I know seeing as half the population is wearing them at the moment!).
My Australia Day experience has left me with a distinct distaste for the fashion of the day – the Fedora or Trilby Hat.
About half the people at the park were wearing these hats. And now I’ve formed an association with people who wear these hats and people who don’t give a stuff – people who care more about the fashion of the day than helping someone out.
After seeing the musical Keating! in 2008 I came away nostalgic for an Australia that was ‘smarter, wiser, less afraid’. I dreamt of an Australia that would ‘lend a cup of sugar like a neighbour should’ : an Australia that cared about those in need, and who was not afraid to act for the greater good.
Times like January 26 2011 leave me disbelieving.
Can we ever be a nation that will treat refugees justly, or a nation that will do the right thing by the world in minimising carbon emissions?
How can we do these things if we can’t even lift a finger to help those in our own backyard?
Here’s hoping your Australia Day experience was better and left you with more faith in the spirit of our nation.
Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/21560098@N06/6729269761/sizes/l/in/photostream/ with thanks to Nina Matthew’s Photography.