God save our long weekend

11 June 2018

God save our long weekend

It’s the moment when my daughters’ eyes begin to silently roll upwards; the moment when I, like all dads, begin a sentence with “When I was a boy…”. Well, when I was a boy, the long weekend in June was about one thing — spending all of our pocket money, as well as any extra we could wrangle out of our parent’s pocket, on fireworks.

In the 1960s the bigger kids in the street would spend the week before scavenging up and down the neighbours’ houses for anything they didn’t want that would burn, be it newspapers or old furniture, so as to perpetuate the British tradition of bonfires in the local park. Did we really give two hoots about Liz blowing out candles on her birthday cake? Of course we didn’t, particularly as she had already done that in April. We cared about three things — watching things burn, making things blow up with loud noises and pretty colours, and having Monday off school to recover from cleaning up on Sunday.

Back then we lived in a very British Australia. We had fabulous new neighbours from all over Europe who Mum and Dad referred to as the ‘new Australians’. They didn’t give even one hoot about old Liz either, particularly as she wasn’t really their queen, but they did their very best to fit in and join in with what everyone else was doing.

Here in Australia we have celebrated the British monarch’s birthday with a holiday since 1788. Strangely, today in 2018 the media I follow has been devoid of the politically-correct protests that we have become accustomed to on Australia Day and ANZAC Day. No doubt Peter FitzSimons will emerge after a sleep in, donning his red pirate headscarf and publicly espousing the pros of an Australian republic in between bites of a piece of bread wrapped around a sauce covered barbecued snag.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a founding member and volunteer activist in Malcolm Turnbull’s Australian Republican Movement long before most of the sycophantic chardonnay-sippers of eastern Sydney had even heard of it. While we have tucked away the debate about the date of Australia Day until the next New Year’s fireworks have sounded, we as a society remain unconcerned about the relevance of the June long weekend. At least the majority of us get to sleep in on a cold Monday morning as the PC-parade haven’t awoken us early, feeling offended by anything related to the Queen. Not me though, I was up at 4am preparing for a day at work.

New South Wales Labor leader Luke Foley told the Sydney Morning Herald that, if elected, he plans to make the second Monday in June a public holiday to honour indigenous people, as “another step in the process of reconciliation”. Mr Foley said he would consult with the community about the proposed change and would most likely not introduce it until Queen Elizabeth’s reign had ended.

Even as a long-term staunch republican, I would have to agree on that. Old Liz has worked hard throughout her life in the performance of her duties, and, unlike her offspring, has done so without a stumble in maintaining her dignity and that of her crown. But the relevance of celebrating the birthday of the British monarch, on a day removed from their birthday, has passed its use-by-date in multicultural Australia, and what better use could there be in replacing it with a day to honour the traditional landholders of our nation?

But that’s just my two cents worth.

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