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In praise of Oz


WITH Australia Day celebrated on Tuesday, it’s time to acknowledge and defend what a great country this is. Forget the blacktivists and whingers always talking the nation down and their argument that we are a racist, white supremacist society where Aborigines suffer perpetual disadvantage. Forget the woke, tax-funded ABC describing Australia Day as ‘Invasion Day’. Ignore the Black Lives Matter activists wanting to deface Captain Cook’s statue and who argue, like original sin that can never be expunged, that every generation of Australians past, present and future must feel guilty and ashamed.

The reality is that Australia is a free and open, democratic society where all are entitled to vote, all are equal before the law and, as a result of the High Court’s Mabo decision, indigenous Australians have ownership of their land. Every year indigenous Australians receive approximately $30billion (£17billion) from state, territory and commonwealth governments.

It shouldn’t surprise that according to the US-based Fraser Institute’s world freedom index Australia is ranked number 5 out of 162 countries in terms of liberty, the rule of law, religious freedom, freedom of expression and security and safety.

As to why millions of people from around the world have migrated to make Australia home, and why we are such a prosperous, peaceful nation, look no further than the arrival of the First Fleet and the fact that it was the British flag and not the French or Portuguese which Governor Phillip saluted on January 26, 1788.

With the 1,300-plus convicts and soldiers who came ashore at Port Jackson were two books central to Australia’s evolution as a Western liberal democracy. The first, William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, details a legal and political system that champions concepts such as habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial and the primacy of the law.

While far from perfect, such was the power of the legal system which accompanied the First Fleet that two convicts, Henry and Susannah Kable, were able to win a court case against their ship’s captain for losing a parcel during the voyage to Sydney.

Compared with China where Muslim Uighurs are imprisoned, Russia where political opponents are poisoned, and Egypt where Christian Copts are regularly persecuted and their churches destroyed, Australians can go about their lives free of unjustified government control and interference.

The King James Bible also arrived with the First Fleet, and such is the enduring impact of Christianity on our institutions and way of life that parliaments around Australia begin with the Lord’s Prayer and the preamble to the constitution includes the words ‘Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

While there is no doubt that Aborigines suffered dispossession, violence and disease as a result of the establishment of a convict settlement, it is also true their lands were never invaded. The Admiralty’s orders to Governor Phillip included the words ‘conciliate their affections’ and to ‘live in amity and kindness with them’.

As detailed by one of the soldiers who arrived with the First Fleet, Watkin Tench, every attempt was made by Governor Phillip to ensure there was no antagonism or conflict, as proved by the fact that after he was speared Phillip sought no retribution.

It is also true that after the Myall Creek massacre in 1838, when at least 28 Aborigines were killed by a group of 12 Europeans, seven of those responsible were convicted and hanged. While not always enforced, it is clear that under British law Aborigines had the same rights as whites.

The historian Geoffrey Blainey describes two opposing views of Australia’s past. The ‘black armband’ view emphasises the sins of the past where there are no redeeming qualities or anything positive.

On the other hand the ‘three cheers’ view ignores what is dark in favour of only emphasising what is worthwhile and beneficial. When it comes to Australia’s origins and its evolution since the arrival of the First Fleet neither is the whole story.

While Aborigines suffered the loss of their lands and experienced violence and disease it is equally true that over time their rights and freedoms have been guaranteed. One of the unique features of Western nations such as Australia is that we have the ability to recognise injustice and work towards a fairer society were all are equal.

In a world increasingly characterised by oppression where billions live under fear and tyranny all Australians, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion, should acknowledge and celebrate what the nation has achieved.  

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Dr Kevin Donnelly
Dr Kevin Donnelly
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a senior fellow at the Australian Catholic University’s PM Glynn Institute and a conservative author and commentator.

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