11 February 2024

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

Australia Day has come and gone for another year and the highlight for me remains the Australian of the Year Awards.

How wonderful to see so many of our outstanding citizens honoured and a big congratulations to Australians of the Year Professor Georgina Long AO and Professor Richard Scolyer AO, Senior Australian of the Year Yalmay Yunupingu, Young Australian of the Year Emma McKeon AM and Local Hero David Elliot OAM.

The efforts and achievements of these five people should inspire us all into this new year.

Again, though, a small shadow has been cast over the day as the debate around its date continue

There are a number of Australians who have an issue with the January 26 date being our national day of celebration, however, for many of us in rural Australia, we like to acknowledge and celebrate our great country together.

The current anger, dissatisfaction, political point-scoring and levelling of blame are a stain on our nation and to now be at a place where corporations feel the need to take a moral stance tells me we're at a crossroads.

Do we continue as a nation divided where even the mention of Australia Day is considered traitorous by some, or do we move forward and find a time where we can all feel comfortable to pause for a day and acknowledge all our country has achieved?

The day is something of which we all have the right to feel very proud.

So many other countries take time out each year to mark a national day, gazetted on a special date for a particular reason.

Many mark an 'independence' day while others celebrate on the day the country's constitution came into effect.

Japan's Foundation Day celebrates the accession of the country's first emperor to the throne, while Bastille Day in France is held on the date of the storming of the Bastille - an uprising that helped usher in the French Revolution.

Germany's Unity Day on October 3 celebrates the reunification of the East and West.

Selecting a new date for Australia Day would not be an easy task.

And, it's important to remember, there's room for so many days of significance on the nation's calendar - as is the case in so many other countries - when people can celebrate as they wish, or choose not to if they feel it's not relevant to them.

For me, though, a day for the Australia we are today is critical for the overall morale of the country, and to help us feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

A day for each of us to celebrate what's important about our nation as it stands in 2024 and beyond, and that's going to be different for every Australian.

It's also important for our future and where we're going - a chance to reflect on not only what's going well, but where we can improve and strive for better outcomes, for all Australians.

Australia Day was first marked in the 1930s, and a lot has changed in almost 100 years.

The Australian of the Year Awards look very different now to when they were first staged in the 1960s and their evolution to better reflect Australia as it is today has maintained their significance and relevance.

I wonder what it means to be a proud Australian to you?

To read this article in The Land newspaper, visit Crossroads for that all important national day | The Land | NSW

Image: Australia Day 2021 - Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra. His Excellency, General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley with Robbie Sefton. Robbie was on the Board of the National Australia Day Council (NADC) for 11 years (2010-2021). She had the honour of being Deputy Chair for seven of the 11 years. The NADC is responsible for coordinating Australia Day celebrations and the Australian of the Year Awards. NADC heads a network of eight state and territory organisations and 789 local committees. Robbie's appointment to the board was made by the Prime Minister.

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