January 26 – 28, 2014
By John M. Gallalee
Sunday, the 26th of January, was a designated “free day” so students could fully experience Australia Day. This holiday is comparable to the celebration of July 4th back in the States. However, it marks the arrival of the First Fleet of British settlers and the raising of the British Flag in Sydney Cove in 1788, rather than independence from the Empire. Traditional British-Australian celebrations include: the consumption of libations, the painting of one’s face with the Southern Cross or the entire Australian flag, the wearing of Australian flag t-shirts, dresses and bikinis and, most importantly, the loving of being an Australian.
However, not all Australians celebrate on this day. There is a good deal of controversy because the landing in 1788 was the beginning of the occupation of Aboriginal Australian lands by British colonials, who would eventually control the whole of the continent and oppress the traditional owners of the land.
LC folks were lucky enough to experience both sides of Australia day. In the early afternoon, many of us went to the Yabun Festival in Victoria Park. This festival was an incredibly informative cultural event, where between 10,000-15,000 people gathered throughout the day. Yabun featured Aboriginal music, poetry, speeches, and more on stage. Off-stage, there were dozens, if not hundreds, of booths with information, art, food, and various items having to do with Aboriginal pride.
Later that afternoon, many of us attended another free music event at The Rocks, near Circular Quay. After, we headed down to Darling Harbour to watch the fireworks. I suspect Australians must not have nearly as many legal restrictions as Americans do concerning fireworks. This particular firework show was unlike any other that I have seen: there were more fireworks in use, they were used on a grander scale, and the whole thing was set to music. After the initial batch of fireworks went off, spotlights shone into the night sky and set a beautiful colored backdrop in the smoke, which more fireworks were then shot off in front of.
|Australia Day Fireworks (Photo by Becca Zilk)|
Once the show ended and we navigated through the crowd of tens of thousands, we continued our cultural assimilation by barhopping. We drank responsibly, were outstanding ambassadors of LC and the US, and had a ripping good time.
Monday, the 27th, was another free day. Many people spent it resting, some went to Coogee Beach, the smaller and less famous cousin of Bondi Beach, and some, like myself, spent it studying. I was able to get a good deal of information for my research project online, but I was disappointed to find the University of Sydney Library closed. Apparently, when Australia Day falls on a weekend, the following Monday is a national day off. It was still a productive day.
On Tuesday, the 28th, we went to two museums. The first of these was the Australian Museum. It contained artifacts having to do with both Australian culture and natural history. We spent the most time in the exhibition on Indigenous Australia, in which there was a large collection of traditional Aboriginal artifacts, cultural information, and information about Indigenous equal rights and land rights movements. There was also a large gallery of modern Aboriginal art. Most of it was very impressive.
The second museum was the Art Gallery of New South Wales. We had two tour guides at this museum. The first taught us about non-Indigenous Australian artwork, and the second taught us about Aboriginal artwork. Both guides were very knowledgeable and I was particularly happy to have them along to help me understand the works better, because I have little to no background in art, though still an appreciation for it. The 26th, 27th, and 28th were all great days down under.
|In Front of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Photo by Dave Campion)|