It was on January 26, 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip, leader of the 11 ships of the First Fleet planted a flag in Port Jackson and set up a penal colony.
It was a very simple ceremony at the time, but when you consider how far Australia has progressed in the past 225 years, a successful nation has been built in one of the world’s harshest environments, and Australians have certainly made their mark in many areas of human endeavour such as the arts, science, engineering, medicine and particularly sports.
Today, Port Jackson is better known as Sydney Harbour and many Australians question why we celebrate Australia Day on a date for which many indigenous people consider to be Invasion Day.
Politics aside, Australia Day is a public holiday and most Australians celebrate their national day.
Australia is a country that has not suffered any civil wars. It is also the only country which occupies a whole continent, and, despite its size, is a country in which all citizens have common traits, such as accent and laid-back attitudes that are pretty much recognised all over the world.
On Australia Day, thousands of people who have come here from other countries choose to take out citizenship, and many Australians are awarded for the contribution they have made to the nation.
Mostly, though, Australia Day is all about having fun, and Australians are expert at enjoying themselves. Mostly, this enjoyment has some humorous aspect to it, which helps to give it a genuine Aussie feel.
For instance, tens of thousands of people will head to particular beaches all over the nation to create a Guinness Record for an activity called `Thong Floating’. This is not what you are thinking! In Australia the footwear known elsewhere as `flip flops’ are called thongs. That makes sense, as the footwear has a rubber thong which goes between the big and second toe in order to attach the thong to the feet.
In this world calls event, thousands of Aussies grab giant inflatable thongs, paddle just off shore of popular beaches, and lie on them in extraordinarily long lines in order to try to break records.
It may sound like a dumb exercise, but it is actually a fun way to raise funds for the Surf Life Saving movement. Most Australian beaches in summer are patrolled by volunteer life savers, who willingly give their time not for payment, but because it is the Australian thing to do. They are very well trained, and hundreds of lives are saved each year by these volunteers.
Volunteering is a normal part of life in Australia, with people volunteering to train to fight bushfires, help out with various skills in local emergencies, help administer medical aid to those in need, and for hundreds of other public services.
The Thong Challenge is a typical Australian way of doing something serious with an element of fun, and it is this ability to combine serious public service with enjoyment which best sums up the Australian psyche and our ability to get on with each other for a common cause.